Groups to Obama: Reject “Unprecedented Level of Secrecy” in Trade Negotiation

More than 20 organizations concerned with openness, scientific integrity, and accountability joined is sending a letter to President Obama urging him to increase the transparency of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiating process. Despite the fact the deal may significantly affect the way we live our lives by limiting our public protections, there has been no public access to even the most fundamental draft agreement texts and other documents.

The TPP FTA negotiations have been conducted in unprecedented secrecy. Such secrecy is no longer common practice in trade negotiations: the World Trade Organization posts negotiating texts on its website for review, and negotiating texts were also made available on the recently-completed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Such openness has not been adopted, to date, in the context of TPP FTA talks. Indeed, to the contrary, parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding 2010 imposing heightened secrecy for the process.

The issues now being negotiated extend significantly beyond traditional trade matters, such as tariffs, and include patent and copyright, land use, food and product standards, natural resources, professional licensing, government procurement, financial practices, healthcare, energy, telecommunications, and other service sector regulations, and more. Indeed, these texts will affect the cost of prescription drugs, the state of our environment, and our government’s ability to protect the public from tainted food, defective products, safe drugs, and will touch every American family. Moreover, this process would establish policies binding on future U.S. Congresses and state legislatures on numerous non-trade subjects currently under the jurisdiction of these domestic legislative bodies.

The letter urges maximal transparency and extreme care on the front end, as the U.S. will be obliged to bring existing and future policies into compliance with the international norms established in the pact — with later changes requiring agreement by all signatory countries. 

Download the letter here: