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Secretive Trade Negotiations Begin in Leesburg
Environmentalists, Congress Demand Transparency
WASHINGTON - September 6 - Today, trade negotiators from the U.S. and eight other Pacific Rim countries met at a secluded resort in Leesburg to write the rules for a massive new trade pact. Over the next 10 days, they will help determine how trade will be handled in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which currently includes the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Mexico and Canada have already been invited to join the pact, and will likely join the negotiations in December. Eventually every nation with a Pacific Ocean coastline could join this pact, dubbed “NAFTA on Steroids” for its massive size and far-reaching consequences. Members of the U.S. Congress and the public have been left out of the official negotiations.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact has the potential to affect nearly every aspect of our lives as Americans,” said Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club. “Alarmingly, however, is the opaque process in which the trade rules are being written. While hundreds of elite business executives have a hand in writing the rules that will affect American consumers, the public is largely left in the dark. This is a stealth affront to the principles of our democracy.”
The Sierra Club, Members of Congress, and many others have repeatedly sent letters to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, asking for transparency in trade negotiations. During other trade pact negotiations such as the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round, full draft texts have been available to the public. Without meaningful public participation and access to the negotiating text, public interest groups like the Sierra Club cannot serve the needs and concerns of their members who will be affected by the trade rules.
“While we appreciate the efforts of U.S. Trade Representative to create a strong environmental chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, we can’t assess its implications without seeing the actual text,” said Margrete Strand Rangnes, Sierra Club Director of Trade and Labor. “We’re also deeply concerned that the investment chapter would leave public health and environmental safeguards open to attacks by foreign corporations in secret trade tribunals. The trade pact will also likely mean automatic approval of liquefied natural gas export permits to participating countries without any economic or environmental review or federal approval from the Department of Energy, which would increase cases of dangerous hydraulic fracturing within the U.S.”