Lance urges Trade Representative to release TPP draft text

In a letter submitted Monday to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) strongly urged the official to release the draft text of the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

In addition to increasing public awareness, Lance said releasing the text would make the ongoing negotiations more transparent and mainstream.

“My constituents support free trade, and increasing good-paying jobs and economic growth in New Jersey,” Lance wrote. “They, however, want trade agreements that are transparent and good for American workers and American taxpayers. Yet the TPP negotiating text is currently classified, and only members of Congress and staffers with security clearance can access it. I believe declassifying and releasing the negotiating text online will bring much-needed transparency, accountability and public awareness to the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement and its policy implications.”

The TPP terminology and all negotiating notes have been made classified by the Obama administration. Members of Congress can read the draft agreement under heavy restrictions, but cannot release any of the information, or publicly discuss or consult on what they have read. Lance is one of the few Congressional members who has actually read the TPP text.

In the letter, Lance referred to a similar situation in 2001, in which then U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick made the draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement available online, several months before Congress approved the deal. Zoellick justified the release, stating that it was an “unprecedented effort to make international trade and its economic and social benefits more understandable to the public.”

“The Bush administration allowed the American people to view the entire Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement in 2001 prior to its enactment,” Lance concluded. “This administration should do the same. It is time for the Obama administration to release the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s negotiating text to the public.”

Lance, along with a large majority of his fellow Congressmen, opposed the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill due to concerns regarding the lack of transparency by the Obama administration. Lance said he would also oppose the pending TAA worker-aid program, and reiterated the need to move forward with the TPP trade pact.