by Zach Carter at Huffington Post
Posted: 06/25/2012 1:56 pm
Updated: 06/25/2012 2:37 pm
Sen. Sherrod Brown is one of four senators calling for access to Trans-Pacific Partnership documents.
WASHINGTON — Four senators sent a letter to the Obama administration on Monday asking for greater congressional access to negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial proposed free trade agreement that remains shrouded in secrecy.
Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) signed the letter, which asks that congressional offices be given access to draft negotiations among the United States and eight other Pacific nations. The four senators also asked that nonprofit groups advocating “Internet freedom” policies be given access to the documents.
The secrecy surrounding the Trans-Pacific deal has sparked a great deal of consternation among public health advocates, consumer groups and members of Congress. More than 600 representatives of corporations are able to view draft versions of the deal because of their positions on government advisory boards, while only a handful of nonprofit groups have the same privilege. Members of such boards are not permitted to share information about the documents with the public. Staff members from both Republican and Democratic congressional offices have also been denied access to the documents.
“Groups essential to the success and legitimacy of any agreements are not being provided the opportunity to provide meaningful input on negotiations that have broad policy ramifications,” the senators wrote on Monday. “If Congress and the broader public are not informed of the exact terms of the agreement until the conclusion of the process, then the opportunity for meaningful input is lost. The lack of transparency and input makes passage of trade agreements more contentious and controversial.”
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