AGRIBUSINESS: Trade Deal Transparency Questioned

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal looks to significantly affect U.S. trade of agricultural goods with 12 Pacific Rim nations.
But the deal doesn’t just cover agriculture, nor does it stick only to traditional trade matters, and it’s come under fire for perceived secrecy since the U.S. joined the negotiating table in 2008.
Online activist group Wikileaks has leaked some of the deal’s draft text and Senators Ron Wyden and Elizabeth Warren have attempted to increases transparency in the Office of the Trade Representative.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman visited Des Moines to talk exports at the Iowa State Fair and says the perceived lack of transparency on the deal is something his office takes very seriously.
Froman says, “We’ve had more than 1350 briefings, on Capitol Hill on TPP alone. Not even including T-TIP or anything else on our trade agenda. We’re meeting with individual members, with groups of members. Committees with their staff. All members of Congress can see the text and we walk them through a number of them through the text to explain and answer any questions that they have. So we’re trying with Congress to make sure the peoples representatives, that they have full visibility and input into what we’re doing.”
Froman elaborated that about 700 stakeholder-advisors from industry groups, NGOs, and labor unions involved in reviewing proposals, and while he concedes there is more his office can do to increase transparency, he states he believes that the TPP has had the most transparent process of any trade agreement to date.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was also talking trade at the State Fair Saturday, and he agrees with Froman that the process has been transparent.
He says, “Negotiation takes some confidence that you aren’t going to tell the world what you’re doing and you aren’t gonna tell the world what your negotiating position is. And you got to have sympathy for that, and I think that the way he has briefed members of Congress from time to time that there’s transparency. Now maybe that doesn’t satisfy some of the consumer groups, some of the producers and I think just as he told you, they spent a great deal of time bringing them up to date.”
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