[Congressional Record Volume 158, Number 75 (Wednesday, May 23, 2012)]
[Pages S3517-S3519]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]


      By Mr. WYDEN:
  S. 3225. A bill to require the United States Trade Representative to 
provide documents relating to trade negotiations to Members of Congress 
and their staff upon request, and for other purposes; to the Committee 
on Finance.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, right now, the Obama Administration is in 
the process of negotiating what might prove to be the most far-reaching 
economic agreement since the World Trade Organization was established 
nearly twenty years ago.
  The goal of this agreement--known as the Trans Pacific Partnership, 
TPP--is to economically bind together the economies of the Asia 
Pacific. It involves countries ranging from Australia, Singapore, 
Vietnam, Peru, Chile and the United States and holds the potential to 
include many more countries, like Japan, Korea, Canada, and Mexico. If 
successful, the agreement will set norms for the trade of goods and 
services and includes disciplines related to intellectual property, 
access to medicines, Internet governance, investment, government 
procurement, worker rights and environmental standards.
  If agreed to, TPP will set the tone for our nation's economic future 
for years to come, impacting the way Congress intervenes and acts on 
behalf of the American people it represents.
  It may be the U.S. Trade Representative's, USTR, current job to 
negotiate trade agreements on behalf of the United States, but Article 
1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress--not the USTR or 
any other member of the Executive Branch--the responsibility of 
regulating foreign commerce. It was our Founding Fathers' intention to 
ensure that the laws and policies that govern the American people take 
into account the interests of all the American people, not just a 
privileged few.
  Yet, the majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the 
substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. 
corporations--like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion 
Picture Association of America--are being consulted and made privy to 
details of the agreement. As the Office of the USTR will tell you, the 
President gives it broad power to keep information about the trade 
policies it advances and negotiates, secret. Let me tell you, the USTR 
is making full use of this authority.
  As the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee's Subcommittee on 
International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, my office is 
responsible for conducting oversight over the USTR and trade 
negotiations. To do that, I asked that my staff obtain the proper 
security credentials to view the information that USTR keeps 
confidential and secret. This is material that fully describes what the

[[Page S3518]]

USTR is seeking in the TPP talks on behalf of the American people and 
on behalf of Congress. More than two months after receiving the proper 
security credentials, my staff is still barred from viewing the details 
of the proposals that USTR is advancing.
  We hear that the process by which TPP is being negotiated has been a 
model of transparency. I disagree with that statement. And not just 
because the Staff Director of the Senate subcommittee responsible for 
oversight of international trade continues to be denied access to 
substantive and detailed information that pertains to the TPP talks.
  Congress passed legislation in 2002 to form the Congressional 
Oversight Group, or COG, to foster more USTR consultation with 
Congress. I was a senator in 2002. I voted for that law and I can tell 
you the intention of that law was to ensure that USTR consulted with 
more Members of Congress not less.
  In trying to get to the bottom of why my staff is being denied 
information, it seems that some in the Executive Branch may be 
interpreting the law that established the COG to mean that only the few 
Members of Congress who belong to the COG can be given access to trade 
negotiation information, while every other Member of Congress, and 
their staff, must be denied such access. So, this is not just a 
question of whether or not cleared staff should have access to 
information about the TPP talks, this is a question of whether or not 
the administration believes that most Members of Congress can or should 
have a say in trade negotiations.
  Again, having voted for that law, I strongly disagree with such an 
interpretation and find it offensive that some would suggest that a law 
meant to foster more consultation with Congress is intended to limit 
it. But given that the TPP negotiations are currently underway and I--
and the vast majority of my colleagues and their staff--continue to be 
denied a full understanding of what the USTR is seeking in the 
agreement, we do not have time to waste on a protracted legal battle 
over this issue. Therefore, I am introducing legislation to clarify the 
intent of the COG statute.
  The legislation, I propose, is straightforward. It gives all Members 
of Congress and staff with appropriate clearance access to the 
substance of trade negotiations. Finally, Members of Congress who are 
responsible for conducting oversight over the enforcement of trade 
agreements will be provided information by the Executive Branch 
indicating whether our trading partners are living up to their trade 
obligations. Put simply, this legislation would ensure that the 
representatives elected by the American people are afforded the same 
level of influence over our nation's policies as the paid 
representatives of PHRMA, Halliburton and the Motion Picture 
  My intent is to do everything I can to see that this legislation is 
advanced quickly and becomes law, so that elected Members of Congress 
can do what the Constitution requires and what their constituents