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Administration Turns Over Some Chile Trade Documents

On February 3, responding to a December 21 court order, the Bush administration released scores of documents concerning the new trade agreement between the United States and Chile. The administration had steadfastly refused to allow the public to know anything at all about what it was negotiating, and environmental groups, having seen the effects of previous trade agreements, are concerned that this agreement may well damage domestic laws protecting the environment and public health. Accordingly, Earthjustice attorney Martin Wagner sued the US Trade Representative to force release of the negotiating documents on behalf of Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Public Citizen, resulting in the court order mentioned above. Since the court order preceded the finalization of the agreement, the administration withheld the final text, though it could easily have anticipated the next step. Wagner has helped write a Freedom of Information Act request to spring the actual text of the agreement.

On January 29, President Bush notified Congress that he intended to enter into the Chile Free Trade Agreement (and another, with Singapore). Under the fast track law, he must wait 90 days before formally entering the agreement. Once that happens, Congress must approve legislation to make the agreement binding on the United States. Because it is on the fast track, Congress may not alter the agreement in any way: the vote will be simply yea or nay.

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