Here's an excerpt from a letter by Senator Elizabeth Warren to USTR nominee Mike Froman:
While I have no doubt that the President's commitment to openness is genuine, I am concerned about the Administration's record of transparency regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Specifically, I am troubled by the Administration's unwillingness to provide to the public the composite bracketed text relating to the negotiations. ... The lack of transparency in this area is troubling because, as you know, the bracketed text serves as the focal point for actual negotiations. I appreciate the willingness of the USTR to make various documents available for review by members of Congress, but I do not believe that is a substitute for more robust public transparency.
In 2001, as part of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), President George W. Bush made public a draft agreement that included bracketed text. ...
Although the Bush Administration released a scrubbed version of the bracketed text that did not reveal which nation had authored which text and preserved anonymity, the disclosure nonetheless allowed outside observers to track the text under consideration and provide detailed feedback. There is no reason why the half-measure toward transparency taken by the Bush Administration should not be replicated with regard to the TPP.
I have heard the argument that transparency would undennine the Administration's policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant. This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States. I believe in transparency and democracy, and I think the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) should too.
In that context, I would appreciate answers to the following questions as soon as possible:
1. If you are confirmed to the position of USTR, would you be willing to immediately make fully public the bracketed text of the TPP?
2. If not, would you be willing to immediately make public a scrubbed bracketed text -- the half-measure toward transparency adopted by the Bush Administration during the FTAA negotiations?
3. Would you please provide me with a complete accounting of the level of detail in the negotiating text that is available to the appointed members of the statutory advisory committees, including whether they have complete access to the negotiating proposals of the U.S., counter or original proposals of our trading partners, bracketed text and any other supporting documents that would enable them to provide complete and accurate input and advice to assist the Administration in the development and negotiation of the TPP?
-- I've previously expressed doubts about the possibility of more transparency in trade negotiations, but I confess that I am rooting for Senator Warren on this one. This is partly out of personal interest: I'd love to see those texts!
-- Using the FTAA as an example might not be a great idea. After all, as we know, the FTAA failed. Perhaps that's part of the reason why texts are not released these days.
-- I'm very interested in the answer to question 3. I've often wondered about that myself.