USTR keeps U.S.-Japan deal reports under wraps


By Adam Behsudi and Doug Palmer, POLITICO



USTR still has not released reports prepared by as many as 26 statutory trade advisory committees assessing the merits of a partial trade deal with Japan, nearly a month after President Donald Trump and Japanese Ambassador Shinsuke Sugiyama signed the two separate agreements.


At least some of the reports are critical of the administration’s failure to reach a full-fledged deal with Japan. A USTR spokesman did not respond to a query last week about when the reports would be released. Administration officials have said they intend to expand the stage one agreement into a broader trade deal with Japan.


The Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, which has the broadest purview of all the advisory groups, turned in its assessment of the “stage one” agreement covering agriculture and digital trade on Oct. 11. “I had been advised that the report is confidential until USTR releases it publicly,” a spokeswoman for the panel’s chairman, Terry McGraw, the former CEO of McGraw Hill Financial, told Morning Trade.


Fred Bergsten, president emeritus of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who serves on the ACTPN, said the group checked with the administration to see if it could release the report on its own, but was told no.


“We supported the agreement, but put heavy emphasis — heavy emphasis — on treating it as a first step only, with the importance of going onto a more comprehensive agreement,” Bergsten said, explaining he was barred from discussing the contents more fully.


No environmental provisions: Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, who co-chairs the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee, said they just sent USTR a “short letter” on the agreement because environmental issues were not addressed in stage one.


“We were very critical of that result and noted that none of the environmental objectives listed in the USTR objectives for the talks had been achieved. We didn’t go into detail but referenced our extensive recommendations for the talks, including a lengthy recommendation on climate change, issued in December 2018,” Schott said.


Agriculture, technology, labor: Not surprisingly, agriculture and technology groups welcomed the stage one deal, since their sectors will benefit. But reports that remain classified include those from the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee and the Digital Economy advisory panel.


The report from another high-profile panel, the Labor Advisory Committee, is expected to be critical, since the pact contains no labor provisions.






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