Rangel and Levin Call on USTR to Release Korea FTA Text
WASHINGTON, DC – House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) today asked the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to release the text of the pending US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to the American public for evaluation and discussion. As detailed in the attached letter, the Administration notified Congress of its intent to enter into the FTA over two weeks ago, but has failed to release publicly the negotiated text of the agreement.
As required by the Trade Act of 1974, trade agreements must be reviewed by private sector advisory committees, which then submit reports to Congress, the President and USTR no later than 30 calendar days after notification of an agreement.
The deadline for submission of these reports is now just five days away and the committees have not been able to conduct their work due to the withholding of portions of the agreement’s text even from cleared advisors.
While USTR has not released the text of the agreement for evaluation, they have been actively briefing the media on select portions of the deal.
Full text of the Chairmen’s letter to USTR follows:
April 20, 2007
The Honorable Susan C. Schwab
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street , N.W.
Washington, DC 20508
Dear Madam Ambassador:
We write this letter to express our serious concern with regard to USTR’s holding of the text of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KFTA), and to call on USTR to release immediately the entire text of the agreement to the public.
On April 1, 2007, the Administration notified the U.S. House of Representatives of its intention to enter into the agreement. Now, more than 15 days later, USTR is continuing to negotiate provisions of the agreement, has not released any of the completed text publicly so that it can be fully discussed and to enable the statutorily-created advisors to prepare full and well-briefed reports, and has prevented those committees from seeing certain text at all.
The Trade Act of 1974, the basis for trade promotion authority, requires that the private sector advisory committees report to Congress, the President, and USTR no later than 30 calendar days after the President has notified Congress of his intention to enter into an agreement. We understand that USTR has informed these committees that they need to provide fully informed advice to Congress by April 25, just 5 days from now. Instead of the 30 days required by law, now there are only 5 days left before the reports are due, and the committees have not even been able to conduct their important work. It is already too late to perform the kind of serious, in-depth analysis needed to provide a full and thorough evaluation of this important agreement.
The Constitution vests the authority to regulate foreign commerce and trade with the Congress. Congress may grant trade negotiating authority to the President under certain conditions — but Congress must be able to make informed decisions based on the full text of the agreements. For more than two weeks, USTR has been actively briefing the press with USTR’s partial descriptions of the agreement, yet has not released the actual text of the agreement for independent evaluation by the public, press, statutory advisors or Congress.
This excessive secrecy is harmful to restoring public confidence in and broad bipartisan support for U.S. trade policy. We urge that you end it by releasing the full text of the agreement immediately.
Charles B. Rangel, Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means,
Sander M. Levin, Chairman, Subcommittee on Trade Committee on Ways and Means