U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman on Tuesday promised more transparency over trade negotiations with Asia Pacific and European Union (EU) countries.
Froman made the pledge to dismiss domestic concerns that trade deals may cause more job losses and undermine environmental standards in the United States.
Trade has been an important part of U.S. economic recovery and has supported 1.3 million additional private sector jobs in the past four years, said Froman at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, DC-based liberal think tank.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations would further benefit U.S. workers, protect the environment and promote innovation, the representative argued.
"We face a choice: Work to raise the bar or stay on the sidelines as other countries write the rules of the game," he said.
Although details of the TPP and TTIP trade talks remain secret, Froman said the Obama administration had already consulted with Congress and stakeholders from the private sector, the labor community, non-government organizations and academia over the talks. He also announced several steps to promote transparency and improve public understanding of the trade talks.
First, the USTR and the Commerce Department are in the process of re-chartering advisory committees and open to further diversify their membership, which would provide official recommendations on trade policy.
"Second, I'm pleased to announce that we are upgrading our advisory system to provide a new forum for experts on issues like public health, development and consumer safety," said Froman, adding that a new Public Interest Trade Advisory Committee (PITAC) will be created to provide a cross-cutting platform for input in the negotiations.
"We are calling on NGOs, academics, and other public interest groups to submit their candidates to be founding members of the PITAC," he said.
Froman said the U.S. government would also broaden public information on the progress of trade negotiations. "In the coming days, we will provide the public with an update on the status of negotiations in the TPP," he said.
"Ahead of the next TTIP negotiating round, we will release a document that further describes our negotiating objectives. And we will provide written updates after each round of negotiations," he added.
Wrapping up a two-day meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht here over progress in TTIP negotiations, Froman said in a separate statement that the United States was committed to move forward the trade talks despite the political challenges.
"We both see opportunities to make substantial progress in the coming months, as well as some challenges," he said. "But our resolve and the political will to reach an ambitious, comprehensive agreement remain strong."