House Democrats press for details on Asia-Pacific trade deal

The lawmakers specifically asked for summaries of the proposals offered by the U.S. officials, "so we have a clearer idea of what positions are being advanced."

Similar appeals have been made in the Senate, with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) sending a letter to trade officials on Monday requesting expanded access of TPP documents. 

Wyden introduced legislation in May calling for better congressional access, and Brown (D-Ohio) is planning to introduce a measure to overhaul the U.S. trade policymaking process and set binding standards for future agreements. 

Negotiations on the trade deal are set to continue July 2 in San Diego between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Mexico and Canada also were recently invited to join talks. 

"We share your goal of making any TPP FTA a high­ level agreement that serves as a model for the world," the House lawmakers wrote. "We believe reaching that standard requires transparency and sustained, ongoing consultations with the many impacted congressional committees and the public."

Lawmakers have been heaping criticism onto the administration as they sort through leaked portions of the trade deal, which negotiators are aiming to wrap up work on by the November elections.

“The message to President Obama from his own party is clear: neither the public nor members of Congress will tolerate more of these NAFTA-style trade agreements, and the text of this deal must be released because there are major concerns about where it is heading,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

“Last week’s leak of the TPP investment chapter sent shock waves through Congress because it showed that U.S. negotiators had totally abandoned Obama’s campaign pledges to replace the old NAFTA trade model and, in fact, were doubling down and expanding the very Bush-style deal that Obama campaigned against in 2008 to win key swing states," Wallach said. 

While more than 600 official U.S. trade advisers from the corporate section have full access to TPP texts, Wyden, who chairs the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the TPP, has been denied access even to the U.S. proposal to the negotiations.

"The TPP FTA represents an opportunity to create a new, sustainable model that respects domestic policy choices and promotes economic development with shared prosperity. 

"Unfortunately, reports indicate the agreement is likely to repeat, rather than improve upon, the existing trade template-including the weakening of Buy America provisions, providing extraordinary investor-state privileges, and restricting access to lifesaving medicines in developing nations, to name a few."

The lawmakers also requested the details of a confidentiality agreement signed by the negotiators in 2010, imposing heightened secrecy for the process and an explanation as to what role USTR or other governments played in crafting it. 

"Given the laudable priority given to improved government transparency since the first day of the Obama administration, we are troubled that there may be needless secrecy and over-classification of documents associated with the release of drafts of the pact’s various chapters, or even providing a summary of each of the administration’s policies that they have proposed to other countries," they wrote. 

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