On Wednesday, Congressman Darrell Issa wrote a letter to USTR requesting access to the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations: “Given the immense impact that this agreement will have on many areas of the American economy, including intellectual property, I respectfully request that you allow me and certain members of my staff to be present as observers for this round of negotiations.” Issa has raised concerns about the intellectual property provision of the bill in the past, and has posted the leaked U.S. proposal on his website keepthewebopen.com
Reuters reports that Assistant USTR for Congressional Affairs Mac Campbell has responded, denying Issa access to the negotiations. “Only negotiators from each country are present for negotiation sessions,” he said. Campbell offered Issa and his staff stakeholder badges that allow access to the “public portions of the event,” but the actual negotiations will remain secret.
This puts Issa in a similar position as negotiators from Canada and Mexico. After the two countries agreed to join the negotiations – following a 90 day period for consultations between the U.S. executive and Congress – a spokeswoman from USTR told Inside U.S. Trade that they would not be able to join the negotiations as observers: “There are no observers permitted in the TPP negotiations, nor can they participate in any way during the 90-day period.”
Earlier this week, 131 Members of Congress sent a letter to USTR asking for greater transparency for both Congress and the public at large. The letter asks USTR to “provide us and the public with summaries of the proposals offered by the U.S. government, so we have a clearer idea of what positions are being advanced on behalf of the U.S. citizenry. Full U.S. proposal texts should be made available not only to Members of Congress, but also to their staffs.”
In March, Senator Wyden introduced legislation that would require USTR to post on its website within 30 days every document tabled in previous negotiations that describes “a position of, or proposal made by, the United States with respect to intellectual property, the Internet, or entities that use the Internet, including electronic commerce.” Going forward, USTR would be required to post these documents online within 24 hours of their being shared with negotiating partners. Also in March, Sen. Wyden pressed Trade Representative Ron Kirk on TPP transparency at a Senate committee meeting, see transcript and video.)