Yesterday, more than 75 labor, environmental, consumer, transparency, agriculture, and other U.S. groups and academics sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman calling on USTR to increase transparency in the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) negotiations (also called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP).
The letter notes that while the European Commission has published the "actual language and binding commitments" it has proposed for TTIP, the U.S. government has thus far failed to make any textual proposals or negotiating texts public. “If the EU is willing to publish its textual proposals, there is no reason why the U.S. cannot immediately release its own textual proposals as well,” the letter said. “This significant change from present practice would be a major step toward the release of composite draft texts after each round. It would also help produce trade negotiations guided by the principles of democracy, transparency, and political accountability.”
USTR has been repeatedly criticized for excessive secrecy in its negotiations of TTIP and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial "free trade" agreement with 11 other countries in the Pacific Rim. Experts and civil society have pointed out that while the public and the press are not allowed to see the negotiating text for either of these agreements (and Members of Congress were only granted very limited access after years of demands), more than 500 so-called "trade advisors," nearly 9 out of 10 representing corporate and industry interests, have special access.
The European Commission's move to publish its textual proposals proves that USTR's extreme secrecy measures, which it has repeatedly defended, are completely unnecessary. USTR should – at the very least - follow the Commission's lead so that the American public can see for themselves who exactly stands to benefit from these trade deals that are being negotiated in their name.