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Public Statements

Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. WARREN. Madam President, I rise today to talk about trade agreements and the impact they have on our economy. Trade agreements affect access to foreign markets and our level of imports and exports. They also affect a wide variety of public policy issues--everything from wages, jobs, the environment, and the Internet, to monetary policy, pharmaceuticals, and financial services.

Many people are deeply interested in tracking the trajectory of trade negotiations, but if they do not have reasonable access to see the terms of the agreements under negotiation, then they do not have any real input. Without transparency, the benefits of an open marketplace of ideas are reduced enormously.

I am deeply concerned about the transparency record of the U.S. Trade Representative and with one ongoing trade agreement in particular: the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For months, the Trade Representative, who negotiates on our behalf, has been unwilling to provide any public access to the composite bracketed text relating to the negotiations. The composite bracketed text includes proposed language from the United States and also from other countries, and it serves as the focal point for negotiations. The Trade Representative has allowed Members of Congress to access the text, and I appreciate that, but there is no substitute for public transparency.

I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative's policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant. In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backward. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.

I believe in transparency and democracy, and I think the U.S. Trade Representative should too. So I asked the President's nominee to be Trade Representative Michael Froman three questions: The first: Would he commit to releasing the composite bracketed text. The second: If not, would he commit to releasing a scrubbed version of the bracketed text that made anonymous which country proposed which provision. And I want to note that even the Bush administration put out a scrubbed version during the negotiations around the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. Third, I asked Mr. Froman if he would provide more transparency behind what information is made available to outside advisers. Currently, there are about 600 outside advisers who have access to sensitive information, and the roster includes a wide diversity of industry representatives and some from labor and some from NGOs. But there is no transparency around who gets what information or whether they are all getting the same things, and I think that is a real problem.

Mr. Froman's response to my three questions was clear: no, no, and no. He will not commit to making this information public so that the public can track what is going on.

So I am voting against Mr. Froman's nomination later today because I believe we need a new direction from the Trade Representative--a direction that prioritizes transparency and public debate. The American people have the right to know more about our negotiations that will have a dramatic impact on our working men and women, on our environment, on our economy, on the Internet.

We should have a serious conversation about our trade policies because these issues matter. But it all starts with the transparency of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Thank you, Madam President.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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