As Secretive Trade Negotiations Resume in LA, Public Interest Groups Demand Transparency
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — As trade negotiators from throughout the Pacific Rim meet in Los Angeles this week for talks aimed at moving the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP) towards a rapid completion, labor, environmental and consumer advocates demanded that negotiating proposals be made available for public review and comment.
“Americans deserve the right to know what U.S. negotiators have been proposing in our names,” said Tim Robertson, director of the California Fair Trade Coalition. “This is the third year of serious negotiations on a pact that’s supposed set the standard for international trade and investment across the globe. It’s outrageous that the public hasn’t been told what our representatives are negotiating for and what domestic policies they are giving away.”
The TPP is soon entering its twelfth major round of negotiations between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, and is explicitly intended as a “docking agreement” that other nations will join over time. Canada, Japan and Mexico have already indicated their interest in doing so. U.S. negotiators are pushing for the completion of the TPP negotiations this year.
The U.S. has reportedly introduced text for most, if not all, of an estimated 26 separate TPP chapters covering everything from our environment to financial regulations, drug patents to public procurement. While approximately 600 corporate lobbyists and a handful of others have been given “cleared advisor” status enabling them to review and comment on these proposals, the general public has not been allowed to do so. This is a far less transparent negotiating process than many other international agreements, including those at the World Trade Organization, where draft negotiating texts are published online.
“On the table in these talks are critical issues related to the rights of workers, climate change, biodiversity and our global economy. It is crucially important that there is transparency around what is being negotiated and time for open debate and public participation,” said Ilana Solomon, trade representative with the Sierra Club.
TPP negotiations in Los Angeles are occurring from April 1 to 4 on labor, environmental and government procurement provisions. What information is available on U.S. proposals comes primarily from a small handful of leaked documents and conversations with negotiators from other countries.
“If U.S. negotiators get their way, the public will be barred from reviewing any proposals until the negotiations are over, at which point it will be virtually impossible to make any substantive changes,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “That’s a bad way of making public policy, to say the least. Frankly, it reinforces the worst public perceptions about government working behind-closed-doors with moneyed interests at the expense of the general public.”