USTR Advisory Groups Need To Be Improved
[Editorial note: This post is written by guest blogger Steve
Having advisory groups is important for governments and international organizations. Left to themselves, government bureaucrats and international civil servants are often unimaginative and lack good ground-level information. As I have noted in my scholarship over the past decades (see my website at http://www.charnovitz.org), the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) has been especially fruitful and vital in international trade policy going back to 1920s.
For two of them, the Agricultural Technical Advisory
Committee and the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs), there is no
information on the
For the other six committees, the
The top level committee is the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN). Of the 32 members, 27 come from business, two from universities or think tanks, one from a labor union, one from the federal government, and one from a state government.
Clearly that is imbalanced.
Other than the labor union member, there are no NGOs (such as Global
Trade Watch), religious leaders, foundation representatives, well-known trade economists
(such as Professor Jagdish Bhagwati), or experts in international trade law. The lack of consumer NGOs is especially odd given
that consumers are the biggest beneficiaries of trade. Also missing are experts from other countries,
such as the South Centre in
The next most important advisory committee is the Labor Advisory Committee. It has 13 members. All of them are from organized labor unions. In my view, this is lopsided because it presents only one narrow viewpoint. Today, only about 12 percent of the wage and salary workforce is unionized. Of course, I do not mean to suggest that union leaders cannot reflect the interests of workers who work outside of union membership. They may. But the fact that the Committee contains no workplace regulators, employers, labor economists, human resource and training specialists or professors of employment law is quite disturbing.
The Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee is also important. It has 36 members, all but one of whom appear to represent the business side of the sector. I see there is one academic (Robert L. Thompson) on of the Committee, who writes about agricultural policy. I do not know him but his appointment seems to me to be a good one. Clearly, however, this committee is totally imbalanced. Although it is hard to tell by the descriptions of the members, I don’t see any agronomists, nutritionists, food policy specialists, or food safety experts.
Another important committee is the one on Intergovernmental Policy. It has 24 members drawn from states courts, state legislators, state regulators, state and local associations in Washington, state cabinet officials, state elected officials, and others. I don’t know anything about the dynamics of this group, but from the list of participants, this one seems balanced and diverse.
The TEPAC is the Trade and Environment Advisory
Committee. It was set up in the early
1990s and thus is newer than most. It
has 23 members drawn from industry, think tanks, environmental NGOs, consumer
NGOs, and local law firms and consultants.
I know many of these members and would say that this Committee is
diverse and distinguished. I doubt that
is has had much impact on The newest Advisory Committee is the one on
The newest Advisory Committee is the one on
Looking over the list in total, it’s clear that additional Committees should be added. One would be a committee on Trade and Public Health to discuss issues relating to the intersection of trade rules and health regulation. Another would be a Committee on International Trade Law to discuss the architecture of new trade agreements and the problems of compliance and trade law enforcement.
On July 16, I used the “Ask the Ambassador” program on the
Since it has been not officially posted by USTR, I will post my question here:
July 16, 2009
It will be interesting to see what response I get from my inquiry or whether I get any response at all.
This will be my last of the five posts this week. I want to again thank Public Citizen for inviting me to be a guest blogger this week.