Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal Urge Biden Administration to Rein in Corporate Influence Over Trade Negotiations by Rebalancing the Trade Advisory Committee System
“Your agencies are pressing ahead with new trade negotiations without having fully addressed the dominance of giant corporations on trade advisory committees, granting their corporate lobbyists access to classified negotiating text that is kept secret from the public.”
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) sent a letter to Ambassador Katherine Tai, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Commerce Gina Rainmondo urging them to rebalance the trade advisory committee system to include the interests of of all pertinent stakeholders, including labor, environmental, and other public interests – not just big business. The letter comes as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Department of State (DOS), and Department of Commerce (DOC) continue negotiations on the U.S.-Taiwan 21st Century Trade Initiative, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), and the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP).
“The Biden administration has made a historic commitment to advancing a worker-centered trade policy, breaking from a history of bad trade deals that have offshored American jobs, undermined labor and environmental protections, and forestalled government efforts to promote competition,” wrote Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal. “However, corporate lobbyists continue to fill out roughly 80 percent of the positions on Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs), granting them access to secret trade negotiating text that remains hidden from the public. As your agencies continue to lead the administration’s efforts to establish new trade pacts in the Indo-Pacific and the Americas, I urge you to build on the work of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to rebalance the trade advisory committee system to better reflect the interests of all stakeholders.”
The Trade Act of 1974 established the trade advisory committee system to ensure private and public sector stakeholders could give input regarding trade policy. The law allows USTR, Commerce, and other involved agencies to establish committees and determine their membership, largely unchecked. However, for decades, membership of the trade advisory committee system has been dominated by corporations and their allies. As a result, trade deals have incentivized offshoring and moved thousands of American jobs overseas. To mitigate this issue, the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 (FACA) required membership in federal advisory committees to be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed.”
Despite this requirement, corporate influence over the trade advisory system remains strong. The Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITAC) – a set of 15 sector-specific advisory committees administered by the USTR and DOC – continues to be overrun with corporate representation, with over 80% of all ITAC members belonging to corporations or their trade associations.
“Allowing corporate interests to continue to dominate the trade advisory committee system clearly harms workers, consumers, and small businesses. We urge your agencies to continue to rebalance membership in those committees to ensure that all Americans impacted by trade have fair representation in the trade policymaking process,” concluded the lawmakers.
Senator Warren has long pushed for trade policy that benefits American workers, not corporate interests:
- In April 2023, Senator Warren led six of her colleagues in sending a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, reiterating concerns about the impact that including skewed digital trade rules in the IPEF will have on the U.S. government’s ability to promote competition, regulate AI, and protect consumer and worker privacy. The lawmakers are also urging USTR to prioritize transparency as they continue to negotiate IPEF.
- In March 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren questioned USTR Tai on the agency’s approach to digital trade policy in enforcement of existing rules and negotiation of the IPEF.
- In October 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) sent a letter to Secretary Raimondo underscoring the dangers of Big Tech’s digital trade agenda.
- In August 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) sent a letter to USTR Tai, Secretary Raimondo, Secretary of State Blinken, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, requesting that the agencies involved engage in robust consultation with Congress and outside stakeholders on the recently announced IPEF and APEP, and urging them learn from the failures of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
- In July 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Secretary Raimondo raising questions about the revolving door between the Department of Commerce and Big Tech companies, and its potential impact on global digital trade rules.
- In April 2022, Senators Warren and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) sent letters to USTR Katherine Tai and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo regarding their plans to negotiate an IPEF and how this new trade deal may impact U.S. workers.
- In April 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren secured a commitment from Ambassador Katherine Tai to bring a progressive, worker-centered approach to trade policy in her role as U.S. Trade Representative.
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