May 10,2022

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Keith Chu (202) 224-4515 

Bipartisan Senate Finance Committee Members Call For Improved Transparency from U.S. Trade Representative; Cite Failure to Consult with Congress on Recent Trade Negotiations

Senators: Executive Branch Must Follow Consultation Guidelines and Meaningfully Brief Congress on Pending Negotiations

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Ranking Member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., today called on the U.S. Trade Representative to dramatically improve transparency and consultation with Congress on pending trade negotiations, in a letter sent today with Senators Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb.

The bipartisan senators cited negotiations to waive intellectual property rules at the World Trade Organization — where details became public before Congress was briefed or shown the text of the agreement — as a recent example of the executive branch failing to adequately consult with Congress. 

“We want to ensure that this failure to consult properly with Congress will not be replicated in other areas, particularly as the Administration seeks to launch new trade negotiations under the auspices of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, pursue multilateral and plurilateral negotiations at the WTO, and engage in bilateral discussions with countries such as the United Kingdom,” the senators wrote. 

“As such, we believe that the Administration must follow both the letter and the spirit of the Transparency Principles and Guidelines and consult fully with Members,” they continued. “The mere fact that changes to U.S. law may not be required to implement a final agreement or that ideas are being exchanged in a ‘white paper’ does not excuse USTR from fulfilling its obligation to consult — in detail, including by sharing any and all text and specific proposals — in a timely fashion, throughout a negotiation.”

Congress has primary authority to regulate tariffs and commerce with foreign nations under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. It delegates authority to the executive branch, with the requirement that it be consulted about trade policies. 

The text of the letter is here.