By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
On January 23, 2009, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) published in the Federal Register a Request for Comments and Notice of Public Hearing concerning the last minute Bush administration proposal that the United States join in negotiations for a proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPPFTA) between Singapore, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Australia, Peru and Vietnam. The USTR gave notice that it seeks public comment to assist the USTR in amplifying and clarifying negotiating objectives for the proposed agreements and to provide advice on how specific goods and services and other matters should be treated under the proposed agreement. However, the first order inquiry must be into why the Obama administration would consider picking up this end-game Bush administration trade agenda item that runs counter to its stated trade and domestic agenda priorities rather than pursuing the new trade reform agenda that President Obama pledged during his campaign.
On behalf of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, we urge USTR and the entire Obama administration to add to its list of reversed last-minute Bush policies the previous administration’s unilateral September 22, 2008 decision that the United States should enter into negotiations for yet another North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-style Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Instead of picking up on the Bush-era TPPFTA proposal, we urge the Obama administration to focus on reforming what President Obama identified as an existing U.S. trade policy that is failing to meet the needs of most people and indeed causing damage. Getting the model right is critical before any new negotiations are started. President Obama identified many aspects of the current FTA model that need reform during the campaign: over-reaching foreign investor privileges and their private enforcement, service sector privatization and deregulation, trade agreement limits on domestic procurement and import safety policies and more.