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Sen. Wyden Introduces Bill to Force USTR Transparency in TPP Negotiations

Thursday, June 7, 2012
By Anandashankar Mazumdar



  • S. 3225

  • Sponsor:Sen. Ronald L. Wyden (D-Ore.).

  • Key Development:Introduced May 23.

  • What Does It Mean?:Bill would require USTR's office to disclose trade negotiation information upon request from Congress.

  • Next Steps:Referred to Senate Committee on Finance.


Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced a bill May 23 that would force the Office of the United States Trade Representative to provide documentation on its trade negotiations upon request from anyone in Congress.

This represents the latest step in efforts by Wyden and others to open up trade negotiation proceedings to public and congressional participation.

In March, for example, Wyden proposed an amendment to a stimulus bill that would prevent the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement from going into force without formal approval of Congress and require the USTR's office to disclose its position regarding the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations (54 PTD, 3/21/12).

Legislators such as Wyden and Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.) have tried to pressure the administration to disclose the working texts of trade negotiators and have on occasion publicized leaked texts (44 PTD, 3/7/12).

S. 3225 is described as “a bill to require the United States Trade Representative to provide documents relating to trade negotiations to Members of Congress and their staff upon request, and for other purposes.”

In a statement entered in the Congressional Record, Wyden said:

[T]he majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations--like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America--are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement As the Office of the USTR will tell you, the President gives it broad power to keep information about the trade policies it advances and negotiates, secret. Let me tell you, the USTR is making full use of this authority.

In a recent exchange with a group of scholars who criticized the TPP negotiation process, U.S. Trade Representative Ronald Kirk said that the “USTR has conducted the most active outreach to all stakeholders relative to the TPP than in any [free trade agreement] previously” (90 PTD, 5/10/12).

Wyden said that he disagrees with such administration claims that the TPP negotiations have been conducted with sufficient transparency.

Furthermore, he said that the administration's interpretation of 2002 legislation establishing the Congressional Oversight Group was too restrictive. Wyden said:

[I]t seems that some in the Executive Branch may be interpreting the law that established the COG to mean that only the few Members of Congress who belong to the COG can be given access to trade negotiation information, while every other Member of Congress and their staff, must be denied such access. …

… I strongly disagree with such an interpretation and find it offensive that some would suggest that a law meant to foster more consultation with Congress is intended to limit it.


 

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. Wyden is the chairman of the Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness.

By Anandashankar Mazumdar


Congressional Record statement at /uploadedFiles/Content/News/Legal_and_Business/Bloomberg_Law/Legal_Reports/CongRecMay24WydenS3225(1).pdf

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