| WASHINGTON, June 27
WASHINGTON, June 27 A California congressman at
the center of a legal battle with the White House on Wednesday
asked U.S. trade officials to let him sit in on negotiations in
San Diego next week between the United States and other
countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
"Given the immense impact that this agreement will have on
many areas of the American economy, including intellectual
property, I respectfully request that you allow me and certain
members of my staff to be present as observers for this round of
negotiations," Republican lawmaker Darrell Issa said in a letter
to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
The unusual request to join the San Diego talks on the
proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, and a separate
letter on Wednesday from about 130 congressional Democrats,
reflect the anxiety many lawmakers are feeling about trade
agreements, even though Congress last year overwhelmingly
approved three such pacts -- with South Korea, Colombia and
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Trade
Representative's office regarding Issa's request.
The U.S. government is hosting the 13th round of
negotiations July 2-10 on the TPP, which would create a regional
free trade zone including the United States, Australia, New
Zealand, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.
Those nine countries recently invited Mexico and Canada to
join the talks, which are unlikely to reach an agreement before
the first part of next year.
The Obama administration describes the TPP as a "21st
Century" trade agreement that would set higher standards in
areas from workers rights to environmental protection to
intellectual property rights, as well as eliminate most, if not
all, remaining tariffs between the countries.
Issa, who represents northern San Diego County, is chairman
of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform
Committee. He has been pushing the White House to release key
documents from a botched U.S.-Mexico gun-running scheme.
President Obama has responded by claiming executive
privilege to shield some of the "Operation Fast and Furious"
documents from congressional investigators.
The roughly 130 Democratic lawmakers, in their letter, urged
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to release draft texts under
negotiation and "to engage in broader and deeper consultations"
with members of Congress on U.S. laws and regulations they said
be could be affected by the pact.
Those include areas such as labor, patent and copyright,
land use, food, agriculture, natural resources, the environment,
state-owned enterprises, government procurement and regulations
for financial services, healthcare, energy and
telecommunications, the lawmakers said.
Meanwhile, Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, on
Wednesday introduced a bill that would require the White House
to provide Congress with more information about potential free
trade partners, including their records on humans rights, labor
and the environment, export opportunities and challenges.
"At a time when too many Ohioans are still looking for work,
we cannot sign a lopsided trade agreement that tips the balance
against American automakers and workers. The rules of trade, and
the processes for negotiating the rules matter," said Brown, a
staunch opponent of free trade agreements and a spokesman for
many union workers who believe the pacts encourage companies to
move jobs overseas.
(Reporting By Doug Palmer; editing by Gunna Dickson)