Open Letter to USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk

Dear Ambassador Kirk,

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) courteously requests that the USTR implements further transparency measures in the ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Although your office has declared that these negotiations have been more transparent than those for any previous FTA, the TPP is hardly a typical FTA. As an economic strategic alliance among 11 Asia-Pacific nations, with the possible addition of superpowers such as China, Japan, and Korea, the TPP has the potential to transform economic relations not only on a regional scale, but also globally. This reality makes the involvement of the public, via the U.S. Congress, of the utmost importance, upholding the precedent set by negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas and in regional organizations such as the Asian Pacific Economic Community.

Further, we at COHA have deep concerns regarding the negotiated text, particularly the investment and intellectual property rights chapters. Undoubtedly, the TPP will produce numerous trade benefits, but the provisions set forth in these chapters do not resemble the 21st century agreement that the White House envisions. The investment chapter will allow for increased investor-to-state litigation, where transnational corporations can sue a host government over any violation of the vague and sweeping definition of investment. This could lead to cases similar to that of Renco, which was litigated under the terms of the U.S.-Peru FTA. Further, the intellectual property chapter would block the flow of medicines and educational materials into the developing world in exchange for enhanced profits.

These provisions are likely to directly challenge the wellbeing of the citizenry in the entire TPP region. Thus, the public must be aware of the United States’ negotiating platform as an assurance that our rights have not been calculatedly violated. Similar processes must occur across the entire region. Therefore, COHA urges the USTR to release negotiated provisions to concerned members of Congress possessing appropriate clearances, to install more extensive public participation at the upcoming 14th round of negotiations before Canada and Mexico are incorporated into the TPP, and to encourage the other TPP members to adopt similar transparency measures.

Sincerely,

Eric Stadius and Elizabeth Briggs

Research Associates, Council on Hemispheric Affairs

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