Democrats have introduced legislation intended to force the Trump administration to make the upcoming renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement more transparent, saying that the administration should have to publicly disclose any agreement made with a foreign country at the end of each round of negotiations.
"The American people deserve to have a voice in trade agreements being negotiated on their behalf," said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., lead sponsor of the Promoting Transparency in Trade Act. "[This legislation] will bring clarity to the process, which is currently off limits to the American people, and ensure the public ? not just corporations and special interests ? have a seat at the table on policies that impact their lives and economic well-being."
The legislation would require the U.S. trade representative to make public at the end of each negotiating round of any trade deal, not just NAFTA, any "element of the agreement ... whether proposed by the United States or by another party to the negotiations." The information would be disclosed "without regard to any representation made by the United States regarding the confidentiality of such proposal." In other words, the trade representative would not be able to guarantee to a foreign negotiator that any proposal could be privately discussed, much less agreed upon. Dingell's legislation also would require the disclosure of who made any proposal, who supported it and who agreed to it.
The legislation has 16 cosponsors, all Democrats.
A spokesman for the trade representative's office could not be reached for comment. The stringent disclosure requirements are likely to be opposed by the White House. Administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have preferred to have a free hand to make deals and as well as keeping the discussions private as a way of building trust with their counterparts.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday that the first round of talks among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to renegotiate NAFTA will begin in Washington Aug. 16. John Melle, assistant U.S. trade representative for the Western Hemisphere, will serve as the administration's chief negotiator.
The White House officially announced its priorities for renegotiations on Monday, indicating the administration will seek to tweak rather than throw out the deal. Lighthizer said the administration would focus on adding a digital economy chapter, eliminating "unfair subsidies" ? a thinly veiled reference to Canadian dairy, poultry, and timber policies ? prohibiting duties on digital products such as music and e-books, and establishing uniform rules to protect intellectual property, among other goals.