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White House Touts Trade Gains But Refuses Freedom of Information Act Request for Substantiation

July 26, 2001

White House Touts Trade Gains But Refuses Freedom of Information Act Request for Substantiation

White House Effort to Push Fast Track has Smoke and Mirrors Galore, But No Facts as Trade Fight Heats Up in House

WASHINGTON The Bush administration’s Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has declined to provide information documenting the administration’s repeated assertion that the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization have increased U.S. household income by $1,300 to $2,000 annually.

The USTR has repeatedly offered the dollar figure during its campaign to promote Fast Track but has failed to provide documentation pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request for “substantiation of the USTR figure.” The failure of the USTR to offer the underlying documentation for the alleged economic benefits of trade to American families requested by Public Citizen under FOIA on June 13 comes as the administration continues to press for Congress to consider its Fast Track proposal (now dubbed Trade Promotion Authority) before the August congressional recess.

“In the height of the Fast Track fight, the administration’s unwillingness to substantiate its implausible claim leads to only one conclusion: They’re using fuzzy math to promote their trade agenda,” said Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach. “There’s nothing like a campaign to push an unpopular trade policy to make trade officials get creative with numbers.”

The refusal to comply to the FOIA inquiry is particularly troubling because the requested information contains no proprietary, confidential or sensitive national security material. Without revealing the underlying economic assumptions, it is impossible for the American public to assess the legitimacy of the administration’s claims of $1,300 to $2,000 income gains. For example, the USTR could have generated the number merely by dividing the increase in gross national product since 1994 by the number of American households and incorrectly assumed any benefits of free trade were shared equally by the entire population. Or, the USTR could be basing the number on the aggregate tariff reductions (which are not expected to go into full effect till 2008) divided by the number of American households.