The latest round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations is taking place in San Diego this week. As I wrote in an earlier post, the proposed agreement is quite troubling in terms of both substance and process. The pact would affect policies on a wide range of subjects, including intellectual property rights, environmental protection, labor, professional licensing, government procurement, and regulations in the financial, healthcare, energy, telecommunications sectors. Yet the negotiations are taking place behind closed doors.
Last week, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), called on the United States Trade Representative to provide more detailed information on TPP proposals. And in a separate letter, over 130 members of the House of Representatives made a similar demand for greater transparency:
Such consultations are essential because the TPP FTA negotiations are of unprecedented scope due to the number of countries and issues involved. According to USTR statements, the TPP membership could ultimately include half of the nations of the world. Accordingly, the proposed TPP FTA necessitates extreme care at the front end, which includes input from Members of Congress serving on committees whose jurisdiction is directly implicated by the broad array of trade and non-trade policies being negotiated. We are troubled that important policy decisions are being made without full input from Congress.
Under the trade advisory system, representatives from over 600 business interests have such access to both USTR negotiators and the negotiating text. However, American small business, civil society, and other interests who have a direct and long-term interest in the outcome of these negotiations have little meaningful input…. If Congress and the public are not informed of the exact terms of the agreement until the conclusion of the process, then any opportunity for meaningful input is lost.
There is simply no valid excuse for the administration to keep Congress in the dark regarding the substance of the TPP negotiations, while details are shared with representatives of Halliburton, Chevron, PhRMA, Comcast and the Motion Picture Association of America.
To learn more about the proposed agreement, be sure to head over to the TPP document library at InfoJustice.