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Congress

Bill Would Give Lawmakers Greater Access to Draft Trade Deals

May 23, 2012

Unhappy with the details released about a draft Asia-Pacific free trade deal, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced legislation Wednesday that would require the Executive Branch to give members of Congress greater access to information about pending trade deals.

Wyden has been critical of the secrecy surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement being negotiated by the United States and eight other Asian-Pacific countries. Wyden and some public interest groups also have voiced concerns about the intellectual property-related provisions of the TPP.

In a floor speech announcing the introduction of his bill, Wyden complained that members of Congress were being given less information about the substance of the TPP talks than representatives from U.S companies. Wyden, who chairs the Finance International Trade Subcommittee, said despite obtaining the proper clearance, his staff has been denied access to materials needed to conduct oversight of TPP for his subcommittee.

Wyden's bill would clarify existing law related to who has access to details on draft trade deals by giving all members of Congress and their staff clearance to access such information. In addition, it would require the Executive Branch to provide lawmakers who have specific oversight over trade agreements with information on whether U.S. trading partners are living up to their trade commitments.

"This legislation would ensure that the representatives elected by the American people are afforded the same level of influence over our nation's policies as the paid representatives of PHRMA, Halliburton and the Motion Picture Association," Wyden said.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which is leading the TPP talks, has defended the process, saying the trade talks require some level of secrecy to ensure negotiators can have a frank exchange of ideas.

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