OpenTheGovernment is pleased to support the 2017 Promoting Transparency in Trade Act (H.R. 3339), introduced Thursday by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) with 16 co-sponsors.
Rep. Dingell also introduced a version of the bill in 2016, which failed to advance. OTG and several of our partners supported the bill then, and the 2017 bill goes even farther toward making U.S. trade negotiations more open and inclusive.
During last year’s election season, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was plagued by criticisms from both parties, who objected to the secretive negotiation process. Important decisions affecting public health, labor, and the environment were made without public knowledge or input, sparking outrage when they were ultimately revealed. Increasing transparency and public participation in trade negotiations would make the process more democratic and help ensure that have public support.
The Promoting Transparency in Trade Act would require that proposed texts be published before each round of trade negotiations, along with considered texts at the end of each round. The bill would also require the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to appoint a transparency officer free of conflicts of interest. OTG and our partners criticized USTR for appointing its own general counsel, Tim Reif, to the position, presenting a clear structural conflict between his role defending the agency’s existing practices and the transparency officer’s mandate to make the agency less secretive and more accountable to the public.
The bill reflects the OTG coalition’s recommendations for inclusion in the 2016 USTR Open Government Plan. In January, we also co-organized a Trade Transparency Roundtable with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, during which we presented representatives from Congress and the administration with additional recommendations to make U.S. trade negotiations more transparent and inclusive.
In a press release, Rep. Dingell said:
“The American people deserve to have a voice in trade agreements being negotiated on their behalf...The Promoting Transparency in Trade Act will bring clarity to the process, which is currently off limits to the American people, and ensure the public – not just corporations and special interests – have a seat at the table on policies that impact their lives and economic well-being.”