It would appear that new Senator Elizabeth Warren is on the side of transparency when it comes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Sometimes it feels like Senator Wyden is the only one who cares about this issue, so it would be nice to have someone else step in as well. Following USTR nominee Michael Froman’s Senate hearings, Warren has sent a letter to the White House asking for its negotiating position on the TPP. The key point, which should be repeated over and over again is the following:
I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Administration’s policy to
complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States. I believe in transparency and democracy and I think the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) should too.
This is actually in direct response to claims from the former USTR, Ron Kirk, who pointed to a failed trade agreement — the Free Trade Area of the Americas — which was handled in a much more open fashion as support for why the TPP must remain secret. But the reasoning there, as Senator Warren correctly notes, is ridiculous. If the trade agreement failed because the public opposed it, that should be seen as a good thing, because the government was stopped from going against the will of the people.
Warren’s overall letter is great. Here’s another snippet and the full text is embedded below.
President Obama made transparency and inclusion a centerpiece of his election, and in many
areas, he has opened the doors of government to ensure that the product of governing can withstand
public scrutiny and is not the product of back-room deal making.
While I have no doubt that the President’s commitment to openness is genuine, I am concerned
about the Administration’s record of transparency regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Specifically,
I am troubled by the Administration’s unwillingness to provide to the public the composite bracketed
text relating to the negotiations. As you know, the composite bracketed text includes not only proposed
language from the United States but also proposed language from other countries. These different
proposals are brought together in one text, and negotiations focus on ironing out the various proposals
and getting to agreement on common language. The lack of transparency in this area is troubling
because, as you know, the bracketed text serves as the focal point for actual negotiations. I appreciate
the willingness of the USTR to make various documents available for review by members of Congress,
but I do not believe that is a substitute for more robust public transparency.