USTR Moves to Shut Environmental Groups out of Trade Talks
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) is attempting to overturn a federal court order that requires it to include environmental representatives on two advisory panels that give the USTR advice on forest products trade policy. The panels currently include only business and industry leaders.
Environmentalists sued the USTR and U.S. Department of Commerce last year, saying U.S. law requires such advisory panels to be balanced. A U.S. District Court judge agreed in November, ordering the U.S. government to include an environmentalist on two panels for wood and paper products.
But the Clinton Administration revealed yesterday that it has appealed that decision saying the presence of an environmentalist at the meetings would "undermine the framework" established to get advice from the wood products industry.
"Despite President Clinton's pledge, a federal judge's order and more than 60,000 people in the streets of Seattle, the USTR remains addicted to its secret meetings with industry fat cats, without the beginnings of a clue of what true public participation means," said Doug Norlen of the Pacific Environment Resources Center.
Patti Goldman of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said, "The appeal reflects the continuing hypocrisy in the administration's trade policy. It calls for openness in the WTO while maintaining secrecy and inside industry access to negotiators at home."
"This appeal gives new meaning to the phrase 'talking out both sides of one's mouth,'" said Joe Scott, conservation director of the lead plaintiff group, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance. "Which Clinton Administration should we believe, the one that promises inclusion or the one that practices exclusion?"
Environmentalists also dismissed the administration's announcement that it would launch new initiatives to get more input from them, saying there is no specific plan to do so. The groups said they would continue their efforts to make the USTR accountable.