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Press Release Published: Oct 12, 2023

Comer Probes Lack of Transparency from USTR in Indo-Pacific Trade Negotiations

WASHINGTON—House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) is today furthering an investigation into the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) and the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) role in protecting American companies and serving U.S. economic interests in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) negotiations. In a letter to USTR Ambassador Katherine Tai, Chairman Comer raises concerns that the USTR has failed to transparently engage with Congress during the negotiations as they seek to rewrite rules for competition and digital trade.

“The Committee recently requested and obtained a March 22, 2023 letter sent by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to USTR regarding the competition and digital trade provisions in IPEF. The Committee is troubled by the FTC’s unwarranted influence in the IPEF negotiations and USTR’s failure to transparently engage with Congress during such negotiations, contradicting its own stated principles,” Chairman Comer wrote.

American companies’ ability to compete openly fairly in the Indo-Pacific market is paramount to countering China’s growing influence in the region. In August 2023, Chairman Comer launched an investigation into the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) role in IPEF negotiations, raising concern that the FTC was going beyond its authority by seeking to dictate provisions related to digital trade and undermining U.S. businesses abroad.

“The letter from FTC and DOJ to USTR indicates that U.S. negotiators are now seeking to rewrite established rules for competition and digital trade that enjoy bipartisan support. USTR’s lack of transparency in doing so undermines Congressional confidence in USTR’s handling of IPEF.  Under your leadership, USTR has previously failed to keep Congress apprised of negotiations before announcing agreements with foreign partners. It is imperative that USTR do so,” Chairman Comer continued.

Read the letter to Ambassador Tai here.

READ MORE: Comer Probes FTC Overstepping Authority in Indo-Pacific Trade Negotiations