Following reports on leaked documents that show that parties involved in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations may be prepared to expand upon the controversial investor protections of trade agreements like NAFTA, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) issued the following statement:
"After more than a decade of broken promises from NAFTA, CAFTA, and normalized trade relations with China, we can now add a credibility deficit to the trade deficits we've seen," Brown said. "The leaked documents surfacing today only underscore the secrecy surrounding TPP negotiations and confirm worst suspicions about the direction trade negotiations are heading. It's telling that it is easier for the CEO of a major corporation to access information about the negotiations than the American people's elected representatives. The negotiations must involve more transparency and bring more voices to the table."
During ongoing TPP negotiations, Brown has repeatedly called on the Obama Administration to enact protections for American jobs and businesses. In May, he asked U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk not to trade away glass tariffs during TPP negotiations, and in October 2011, he sent a letter urging the President to change course in trade policy and rewrite trade rules to put Ohio jobs and Ohio workers first. The letter also requested specific benchmarks on jobs as the U.S.-Korea agreement is implemented and called for a fundamental reorientation of U.S. trade policy. In November, as Japan announced its intent to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Brown sent another letter to President Obama raising concerns over the existing automotive trade deficit with Japan and seeking more support for American manufacturing in the TPP.
Brown is now leading a sign-on letter in the Senate demanding more transparency in the negotiations to ensure, among other issues, that all relevant stakeholders in matters involving internet freedom are officially consulted.
Many U.S. trade agreement texts are not made public until they are finalized and signed, preventing any significant changes to be made before Congress considers the agreement. Brown's letter to USTR Kirk emphasizes the importance of negotiations regarding copyright language and internet freedom. The debate on the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act last year demonstrated the far-reaching implications of intellectual property proposals, and the importance of public feedback. The letter proposes expanding the Industry Trade Advisory Committee to include a broad swath of public stakeholders--not just trade officials--and posting summaries of TPP terms to keep the public informed of potential proposals.
Brown led the House opposition to the Dominican Republic -- Central America Free Trade Agreement in 2005, falling just two votes shy of blocking the agreement after the vote was held open for nearly two hours. The author of the book Myths of Free Trade and described as "Congress' leading proponent of American manufacturing," Brown also stood up to President Clinton during debate of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.