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President Obama has made openness a high priority in his Administration, committing his Administration to an “unprecedented level of openness in Government” on his first full day in office.
Since then, the Administration has:
- Disclosed more information requested under the Freedom of Information Act,
- Made voluminous information available on government websites; and
- Used technology in innovative ways that harness government information to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
As President Obama today signs the Open Government Partnership declaration, USTR is proud to highlight some of the ways that we have advanced America’s domestic open government agenda and created a more efficient and effective government through greater transparency, participation, and collaboration.
The Administration has deliberately considered the next direction for American trade policy, with the belief that this key component of economic recovery should and could be more responsive to Americans’ concerns. USTR is confident that a trade policy focused on American employment and economic growth, incorporating labor and environmental concerns, and developed with greater transparency and public engagement, can give the American people greater assurance that trade can both serve our interests and reflect our values.
To that end, as key trade policies have been formed the Administration has engaged in outreach of unprecedented scale and scope, including consultations with our partners in Congress, with our trade advisory committees, including workers and businesses, as well as with other interested parties nationwide. Efforts to address concerns with pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea have benefited enormously from expanded outreach, as did finalizing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and the Special 301 process to identify barriers to American intellectual property exports.
The President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN) was fully reconstituted in 2010 to include more representatives from non-governmental organizations, state and local government, public health, consumer interest, labor and environmental groups, while maintaining robust membership from the U.S. business community. These new ACTPN members join congressional leaders and other American stakeholders in shaping trade policy that continues to work better for all Americans.
Outreach efforts have reached groundbreaking levels in USTR’s work to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership – our flagship initiative under the Open Government Initiative. Since before the announcement in December 2009 of the United States’ intent to joinTPP talks, members of Congress and stakeholders have been included at every stage. Their input has been solicited and incorporated across the TPP effort, from the formulation of U.S. negotiating positions to outreach around the country and a precedent-setting presence of stakeholders on-site at negotiations, beginning with the first U.S.-hosted round of TPP talks in San Francisco, CA in June 2010.
The use of technology has underpinned all of USTR’s efforts to expand the trade conversation among the American people. USTR’s website is a communication tool to share information about USTR accomplishments and as an outreach tool to serve the needs of the public (industry, small business, consumer groups, etc). After a complete overhaul in 2009, www.ustr.gov was improved with a second redesign and update to better illustrate the impact of trade on communities around the country. The new design made more information more quickly accessible on the front page of the website and improved navigability for visitors interested in trade issues. A new, comprehensive website, www.export.gov, has also been launched to centralize for the public all information and resources regarding the National Export Initiative. USTR also communicates with the public through its weekly newsletter, launched in 2009, and in real-time through social network sites, including on-the-ground updates from several trade negotiation rounds.
An open and good government is much more than releasing information. It is about harnessing the skills and talents of the American people, establishing greater collaboration among Federal agencies, and ensuring that the taxpayer’s money is wisely spent.
To that end, this month USTR has recommitted itself to the principles that the President announced on his first day in office and that have been exemplified in our work since then. At the September 2011 round of Trans-Pacific Partnership talks in Chicago, IL, which ended last Thursday, September 15, more than 250 stakeholders accepted USTR’s invitation to be on-site at the TPP talks in Chicago to interact with negotiators and delegates. Additionally, USTR supported fifty-seven stakeholder group presentations directly to delegates from the nine TPP partner countries and to other stakeholders attending the forum. With USTR’s encouragement, many TPP negotiators including chief negotiators from the nine TPP partner countries listened to presentations by stakeholders representing a wide range of views on issues relevant to the negotiations. In turn, chief negotiators from the nine TPP partner countries offered a mid-round briefing to stakeholders and stakeholder groups, and held a press briefing to share with the public the progress made at the round.
USTR will continue this transparency effort with its flagship Open Government initiative – the TPP. And across the President’s trade agenda, USTR will continue to respond to Americans’ concerns and to include Americans’ ideas in our work to open world markets to U.S. exports and enforce America’s rights around the world.