United States Trade Representative Releases Transparency Plan - Global Trade Magazine
  November 4th, 2015 | Written by

United States Trade Representative Releases Transparency Plan

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  • Under new guidelines, congressional staff will be able to review the negotiating text of a trade agreement.
  • Transparency drives up the quality of the public debate, which is important in the context of trade.
  • Law requires that trade agreement text must be posted online 60 days before the president signs it.

The Obama administration reported to Congress last week how it plans to make future trade negotiations more transparent.

The trade consultation and engagement guidelines issued by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative were mandated by the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, also known as fast track.

Under the new guidelines, staff of members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, who have received security clearances, will for the first time be able to independently review the negotiating text of an agreement. The guidelines explain in more detail the role of USTR’s chief transparency offer, a position filled by Tim Reif.

“These guidelines lay out a detailed set of policies and procedures to increase consultation and engagement with Congress, the public, and stakeholders,” Reif said. “Transparency drives up the quality of the public debate, which is important in the context of trade.

The guidelines also aim at making trade negotiations more transparent to the general public by committing to release a summary of specific objectives and prospective benefits to the U.S. at least 30 days before initiating negotiations for a trade agreement.

Meanwhile, it has been over 30 days since the announcement that an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership was reached, yet no full text of the agreement has been released, much to the consternation of some members of Congress.

But, as the transparency guidelines indicate, the Trade Priorities Act requires that texts of trade agreements must be posted online only 60 days before the president signs it.

“We are currently working with our partner countries to finalize the text of the TPP agreement for public release,” said Reif.