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Is the TPP Trade Agreement Being Kept Too Secret?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been targeted for many things, one among them, its lack of transparency.

Some have said elements of the agreement are being kept too hush hush and that the American public isn’t getting a fair chance for meaningful public debate on the overly classified trade deal. U.S. unions have also been steadily pushing for the text to be made public.

The TPP is an in-progress trade pact the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other nations, which together account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP.

Last week, the notorious Julian Assange said TPP’s transparency clock has run out, and his whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, which has published leaked chapters of the trade deal before, is crowd-sourcing a $100,000 reward for copies of the agreement’s full text.

As of publication time, Wikileaks has raked in $59,337 pledged by 1,087 people since the start of the campaign last Tuesday.

The U.S. Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) last month, giving the president authority to propose trade agreements to Congress for a yes or no vote but no amendments, and paving the way forward for TPP and other trade deals.

Having the House of Representatives debate the fast-track legislation is the next chapter in the TPP saga, but a date for the vote has not yet been set, though House majority leader Kevin McCarthy said it could likely happen this month.

If approved by the House, the TPP text has to be made available for 60 days before the president signs it and for more months before Congress votes on it. By that timeline, TPP could be settled and signed by December.

In an attempt to clarify some of the buzz surrounding TPP, the White House issued a statement on its blog last week—day’s following Assange’s call-out—saying, “The TPP negotiations are still ongoing, so there is no final agreement to review. But public input is vital to the process, and that’s why the administration has taken new steps to share our priorities and get feedback throughout the process.”

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So far, those steps include: publishing detailed summaries of U.S. objectives in negotiating all aspects of the agreement, soliciting public comments on negotiation aims, priorities and concerns, including through the Federal Register, and holding public hearings inviting input on the negotiations.

“What we haven’t done and what we shouldn’t do is publicly announce our bottom-lines in these negotiations before it is complete,” the statement continued. “This is a high-stakes international negotiation and there is a certain level of discretion that is needed to ensure that we get the best deal possible for the American people.”

At the G7 summit in Germany that concluded Monday, leaders reaffirmed their commitment to promoting trade, noting in the G7 declaration that they would work to reduce barriers and improve competitiveness by liberating their economies.

“We will make every effort to finalize negotiations on the TPP as soon as possible as well as to reach agreement in principle on the EU-Japan FTA/EPA preferably by the end of the year. We will immediately accelerate work on all TTIP issues, ensuring progress in all the elements of the negotiations, with the goal of finalizing understandings on the outline of an agreement as soon as possible, preferably by the end of this year,” the summit statement noted.