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Feb. 18, 2014

‘Public Interest’ Committee Won’t Fix Imbalance in Trade Policy Creation

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: Today, in response to broad criticism about unbalanced and closed trade policymaking processes, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman announced the addition of a public interest advisory committee.

It’s a good thing that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has finally acknowledged the widespread outrage over the closed, special-access-for-industry process that guides U.S. trade policymaking. But what is needed is a change in operations and policy, not just optics.

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka reiterated in his recent letter decrying USTR’s unbalanced and exclusive procedures, there is not one single labor, environmental or consumer representatives on most of the 16 industry trade advisory committees. There is one labor committee. Now there will be a “public interest” committee, as well. That is hardly balanced input into U.S. trade policy.

Under current policies – and today’s announcement would not change this in material ways – Big Business has access to negotiating texts and special access to influence trade negotiations. The public has zero access to negotiating texts – even though corporations and the countries with whom the U.S. is negotiating do – and is therefore handcuffed in making meaningful suggestions.

The USTR needs to reform its process to make negotiating texts public, with no special access for Big Business representatives. And it needs to abandon the failed NAFTA template to create special corporate rights, and instead negotiate trade agreements that protect our health and safety standards, create good jobs and middle class prosperity, and secure a healthy environment.

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