FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH CATHERINE NOVELLI, UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH, ENERGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT
TOPIC: THE PRESIDENT’S TRADE AGENDA FOR 2015
TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2015, 2:00 P.M. EST
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, folks. Welcome to the Foreign Press Center. It’s our pleasure this afternoon to have with us Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Cathy Novelli, who will be talking with us about the President’s trade agenda for 2015.
You already have the Under Secretary’s bio, so without further ado, I’ll turn the podium over to here. After that, we’ll come back to you guys for questions.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thanks so much, and thank you all for being here. This is a very timely week to be having this discussion with you, and I just thought I would make a few remarks and really take your questions so we can have a discussion.
But as you know, Trade Promotion Authority is front and center right now with our Congress, and we hope that we will be seeing a bill very soon. And Trade Promotion Authority is the procedural authority that Congress would use to discipline itself to vote yes or no on trade agreements that are submitted to it by the Administration. And it also contains also consultation and transparency provisions so that the two branches of the government can work together most effectively.
And the reason why that is important is because that is what will greatly facilitate our ability to move forward with our trade agenda, including on two agreements that are under active negotiation, the Transpacific Partnership, or TPP, and the Transatlantic Agreement, the TTIP.
And so with respect to those agreements, the TPP is the one that is closest to being concluded. We made a great deal of progress there. It is obviously with countries that border the Pacific. It comprises 40 percent of the world’s GDP. And we are very much making progress towards a very high quality, market-opening, transparent, comprehensive agreement. And so we’re looking forward to locking in those kind of rules, rules that give a level playing field to everyone, including to U.S. companies and to every other company who’s in that TPP process.
In addition, we have the TTIP, which is our agreement that we’re negotiating between the United States and the EU. And there we have a $1 trillion relationship that is an ongoing and very deep relationship, a very old relationship, with a lot of cross-investment. And we feel that we have a real chance there to get rid of barriers that are impeding efficient cross-border trade, investment, et cetera, as well to set a new bar on things like regulation, where we can make sure that we are achieving the twin objectives of protecting our health and safety, both for ourselves and for the citizens of Europe, but also doing that in a way that is most efficient and best for our citizens.
So we’re looking forward to concluding both of these agreements, and we’re looking forward to being able to submit them to the Congress under the rubric of trade promotion authority, should it pass the Congress.
And I’ll stop there and be glad to take questions on these things or any other trade issues that you have.
MODERATOR: So please raise your hands if you have a question. And when – wait for the microphone. Identify yourself and your media outlet before you ask your question, if you could.
We’ll start here in the front.
QUESTION: Thank you. Jennifer Lee with Hong Kong Phoenix TV. I have two question – first about the TPA and the second is about China. So about the TPA, as we know, an increasing number of the congressmen want to address the currency manipulation issues in the TPA bill, which is obviously opposed by the Administration. So I wonder if they really include the currency manipulation language in the bill, is this going to affect the timing of the final conclusion of the TPP?
And then this lead to my second questions. So the Treasury want to convince the Congress that diplomacy is working, so he’s saying to Congress that through the bilateral trade talks diplomacy is working and China has reduced its currency intervention. Does the State Department share the same view? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, Secretary Lew speaks for the Administration, and we very much support the engagement that Treasury has had on currency issues with the Government of China and with many other governments. And we believe that progress has been made.
In terms of what’s in the TPA, our concern about this is that traditionally currency has not been something that’s been the subject of trade agreements, and trade agreements really aren’t something that are supposed to be the grab basket of every single conceivable issue that could, in fact, could affect our relationship. And so we believe the proper channel for that is really the treasury-to-treasury finance channel.
And what will be worked out with the Congress will have to remain to be seen, but we feel very strongly that we would not want to be in a situation where we would have our own independent Federal Reserve Bank, for example, being subjected to binding international dispute settlement about decisions it makes. And so that is the reason why we have been resisting having currency as part of the binding obligations of the TPP.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name’s Andrei Sitov. I’m a Russian reporter here in D.C. with TASS. Thank you, Secretary, for doing this. And thanks to our friends at the FPC, as always, for hosting the briefing. I have also a couple of questions.
First, very simply, is anything to do with trade and investment relations cooperation with Russia – is anything a part of the President’s agenda for the current year? Is anything left standing basically from what we used to have?
And secondly, since the goal of the sanctions that the Administration currently has against Russia is to hurt the Russian economy, don’t you realize that by hurting the Russian economy you, by definition, hurt the Ukrainian economy because the two are closely linked, especially in trade? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, in the answer to your first question I would say that we have had a history of a very long economic relationship even in our most challenging times in the history of our countries, and we have companies that are still doing business, American companies still doing business in Russia. We have Russian companies still doing business in the United States. And as long as those things are taking place within the law, we absolutely support the continuation of that. So to the extent that we are going to be helping our own businesses, which is our job, to continue to do what they’re doing, we will be doing that.
We have a number of areas where we’re working constructively with Russia. One of them is in the Arctic Council and there are a number of economic issues that are at stake there, including how will natural resources be developed at the same time as preserving the environment in such a pristine and delicate area. And so we are robustly working with the Russian Government in those areas, also with the Iran talks where we’re cooperating. So we do have areas where we are continuing to cooperate.
In terms of sanctions, I think there’s not a lot new to be said about that. We have tried to be very targeted in the sanctions that we have taken because our quarrel is not with the Russian people, and so we have tried to use sanctions in a way that will send a message, that will have an impact, and to do that in solidarity with our allies in Europe so that we are all acting together to undertake the actions that are being taken.
QUESTION: And I have a follow-up, a brief follow-up. Since there was a question already thrown at you about the Treasury, I wanted to talk about the sanctions, the SWIFT. Would that be economically helpful? Would that be effective if Russia is switched off from the SWIFT system? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I can’t comment on actions that might be taken in the future.
MODERATOR: Let’s keep moving along the front. Jane.
And by the way, I see that our New York DVC has come back up, so colleagues in New York, if you can please step up to the podium.
QUESTION: Thank you, Catherine.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Sure.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) news. We know that TPP is the heart, the center of President Obama’s rebalance strategy. And while China is raising the One Belt and One Road in Asia Pacific, which include developing the FTAAP and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. And so far, how do you evaluate this strategy might, in fact, affect —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: The strategy of developing the Asia Infrastructure Bank or the rebalance, or which strategy?
QUESTION: The One Belt and One Road.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, I think from our perspective, we think that there are many avenues. Countries have many interests; they cooperate with many neighbors on lots of different things. So we don’t think there’s only one mode of cooperation. We don’t think there’s only one area of cooperation. And we support China being robust in that region. That’s where China is.
At the same time, we have very old ties there. And as I said, for us it’s a very important and growing region, so we want to be able to make sure that we’re able to also have our companies do well there as well. So – and I don’t think that these things are mutually exclusive, and so we support a robust engagement. And we are also engaged directly with China. We have our bilateral investment treaty talks that are ongoing and are actually going very well and progressing. So we are not just only engaging with countries that are members of TTIP*.
QUESTION: John Zang with CTI TV of Taiwan. Madam Secretary, I have a couple of questions. First off, do you expect the U.S.-Japan negotiations to conclude before Prime Minister Abe’s visit here to Washington? That’s the first one.
The second one: What aspect of the President’s trade agenda for 2015 have something to do with Taiwan? We understand that Taiwan wants very much to join the next wave of partners to negotiate full membership in the TPP. In what way will the United States help in that regard?
And also, there will be TIFA talks in the second half of this year. Are there any specific objectives that the U.S. has with regard to those talks? Thank you very much.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Sure. Well, so with regard to the timing of TPP, as said maybe ad nauseum, substance will drive the conclusion of the negotiations. But what I can say is I think you all know that Wendy Cutler, the chief negotiator, is on her way, actually, to Japan right now. I think she’s on a plane as we speak, in fact. And so the negotiations are continuing. They are making progress. They’re not finished yet. We are the two largest economies in the TPP and it’s natural that we’re going to have to work things out. But I think people feel optimistic that we will be able to do that. I can’t tell you a date by which that’s going to happen, and I think it will be driven by getting to the right place for both ourselves and Japan, and not by when somebody is visiting some other place.
In terms of Taiwan and other countries – and others who have expressed interest in becoming part of TPP, because Taiwan isn’t the only entity that’s expressed interest – basically, what we’re saying is that we need to finish the negotiation that we have in front of us. My dad used to always tell me to saw the wood in front of me, and I think that’s really good advice in general, that we can’t get so far ahead of ourselves. So we’ve got to conclude what we have now, which is a big amount of things that we have to conclude, and that’s going to take some time, even once the negotiation itself is concluded, to rectify texts and translate it, et cetera, et cetera. So we really haven’t gone beyond and sort of designated, okay, here’s the next wave of entities who will be on the list. And – but we are certainly open to the idea that TPP is not a closed system and we’ll have to see where that goes from there.
You asked about the TIFA talks. So the TIFAs are very important. We have them with a number of entities and we have them regionally, we have them bilaterally, and they’re very important because they provide us a framework for talking in very concrete terms about things that are going to enhance our relationship, both our trade and our investment relationship. And they can be everything from policy questions to how do our companies work better together to how are we more transparent about regulations. So it will be a very robust discussion, and I think we very much welcome it.
QUESTION: Any specific issues, like the beef, pork imports into —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I’m not steeped in all of the particulars of beef and pork, so I would hesitate to say.
QUESTION: Brian Beary, Washington correspondent, Europolitics. You mentioned TPP and not being a closed shop, but what about TTIP, because it – to my knowledge, neither side has ever said anything about the ability at some point of other countries to join TTIP. I know Turkey has – is very keen to join, so can you say anything about that?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: We really haven’t crossed that bridge, nor have we put it off the table. We are less far along because we started much later on TTIP than we did on TPP, which was going on for many years before we got to the place that we’re at right now. And so I think it’s very early on to say how we perceive it. And I will say, I think given the things that we have on our plate on TTIP, we really do have to focus on that before we think about what’s next and who would be next and if anybody would be next, and that just wasn’t part of the contemplation when we started it, but it doesn’t mean that that can’t be part of the contemplation once we’re finished.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Just any further elaboration on the timeline for TPA?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: For TPA? Well, I think that’s really going to be up to the Congress. This is a congressional piece of legislation. As I said, we really hope that we’ll see a draft bill soon and then Congress will have to either vote on it or – hopefully – and we’re working very hard, the President is personally working hard, all of the Cabinet are working hard to make the case for why having TPA and having a robust trade agenda is good for the American people, for our workers, for our companies, for our small businesses, for the environment, and generally for lifting up all boats that will help global prosperity.
So we are all making that case very strongly, and we certainly hope that enough members of Congress will agree with us and pass the bill.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name’s Daisuke Igarashi from Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun. Related to this TPA issue, so do you think that Congress should pass a TPA bill before Japan and the U.S. reach agreement, or before TPP 12 countries reach an agreement? Do you think TPA bill comes first? Should it come first?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I don’t know if there’s a “should.” I think we would hope that the TPA bill would pass soon, and the timing of TPP may be that because of the complexity of the negotiations, that it isn’t concluded because – just because of that, but we don’t think that those negotiations should be held up waiting for TPA to pass. And we don’t have any indication that that would be something that would prevent TPP from moving forward. We do think that it is much cleaner to be able to vote yes or no once an agreement is submitted, but having an agreement concluded, as I had said before, isn’t the same as submitting it to the Congress, because there’s a lot of lawyers pouring through every comma, making sure the text is the same, making sure that all the languages have the exact same words in them that mean the same things, and that’s a laborious process. So it will be some time before the actual agreement is submitted to the Congress in any event.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Qi Gao from CCTV America. I know it might be too early to raise this question, but I’m still wondering that if TPP – it’s an open system to more countries, and as you might heard that some Chinese official, including the vice minister of secretary of the treasury, has expressed the willingness to let China join this TPP agreement so that we can push forward the ongoing reform of China’s economy. How do you reply those request?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, as I was saying, we need to conclude the negotiation that’s in front of us first before we move on with any other countries becoming part of it. And I guess what I would say is we have not foreclosed the possibility of any country in the region who borders the Pacific becoming a part of it. The idea is that we’re going to have a very, very stringent, high-quality agreement. And so countries who are willing to buy into that high-quality, very stringent kind of agreement and make those kind of obligations for themselves, those are the ones that are – that would have the best fit with TPP. So I think it’s a question for down the road.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Gulbin Yildirim from Anadolu Agency. IMF recently released a report that raised some concerns regarding these regional agreements. They actually warned the countries involved in these regional agreements not to let them to take over the global trade policy agenda. So how are you trying to address those concerns? And I know that you said you are waiting to conclude the negotiations, but isn’t there a risk to be too late for reversing such effects, if they happen to exist? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I think that it’s possible to have multiple kinds of agreements. I don’t think that the only kind of agreement is a multilateral WTO agreement. The WTO is extremely important, having a multilateral system is extremely important.
But in the terms of the WTO itself, it contemplates that there are going to be countries or groups of countries that want to go beyond what is the base that’s set by the WTO, and it contemplates the idea of free trade agreements. So when people founded the GATT way back when at the end of World War II, they understood that there was going to be more than just the ability to do things where everybody agrees. And I think the value of the multilateral – of the sort of plural-lateral TPP-type things or the bilateral TTIP things, is that it can show a path forward that can get ideas out there, that can get ways forward out there, practically speaking, where countries can raise the bar. And those can then become the platform for the rest of the world to look at. And as somebody who’s worked in trade policy for many, many, many years, I think the results are pretty clear that open trade is much better for economies than closed trade. So whatever we can do to push that forward, I think, is a good thing, and I don’t really see that there’s a danger by being able to set a higher bar in some circumstances, even if every single country isn’t included.
QUESTION: Is there anything you are planning to do for countries that are left out in the cold, like Turkey, for instance?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, I think we’ve had a lot of discussions with Turkey about this, and as I was saying when we started the TTIP, we didn’t sort of sit down and say, “Okay, after we’re done with this, this country, this country, this country.” However, I think we’re not precluding the possibility that Turkey could join TTIP once it is concluded, if everybody is comfortable.
So I think Turkey is in a bit of a unique situation, to be honest, because it has the customs union, unlike the EFTA countries, who just have sort of a free trade agreement. There’s really not other countries that are in that same situation as Turkey, and so we will have to discuss how we’re going to take all of that forward, including with our allies in the EU and including with Turkey.
MODERATOR: We can go in the back.
QUESTION: Alfonso Fernandez from the Spanish newswire EFE. You talk about the TTP – the TPP as the closest deal, and this briefing is called Presidential Trade Agenda. Do you think that the trade agreement with Europe could be done before Obama leaves the White House?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, once again, I would say substance is going to have to drive when things are finished. I think it’s possible that the agreement could be done before the – President Obama leaves the White House. I think it’s possible. There’s a lot of work to do. And like I said, the TPP began many years ago, and so it’s been going on, and it’s gradually – when Japan joined, that added a level of complexity, but there is also a large base of negotiations that have been going on. And TTIP is a newer negotiation, so it’s not that it’s behind; it just started later, and we’ll have to see. I think our colleagues in the EU are committed to moving things forward, and now that there’s a new commission, that gives new impetus, and so we’re very hopeful. And we’re ready to move as quickly as our colleagues in Europe are ready to move.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Gretel Johnston with the German Press Agency. Hi. I just wonder if you could go into TTIP just a little bit more. I understand the ninth round is coming in April and it will be here in Washington. And I wonder if you have identified what the major topics will be during that round, and if you’ve also set the dates – the specific dates for it. And then if you could also say what else is coming in terms of the number of rounds coming this year that are planned.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I’m not aware that there are – that all the rounds for the rest of the year are planned out. In terms of the exact dates, I don’t know what – whether those have been agreed to yet. And when (inaudible) occur, actually everything is discussed. There’s certain things that are emphasized, but everything is discussed, and the idea is to move things forward. So there are not “Oh, we’re only going to talk about this one or this other thing.” We try to just keep everything moving and all the plates spinning, and that’s the way you really can advance things to try to get them done before the President leaves office in 2016.
QUESTION: Michael Vincent. I’m Michael Vincent, ABC Australia, hi. You talk about open trade and you’ve talked about the transparency of this agreement, but there’s extraordinary criticism here in the U.S. and in Australia about this deal being done behind closed doors, covering such a wide array of issues beyond trade – environment, human rights, labor conditions. How do you address that concern?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, all negotiation – you cannot negotiate with other governments by having the negotiations televised to the general public, or you would never get to a conclusion. What we’ve set up in the United States is a system of advisory committees that are representative of our industries, of our civil society. They have access to the text of the negotiations and they provide advice to us about what kind of things they think belong in the agreement. We have robust consultations with members of Congress, with congressional staff about what’s happening. So it’s not that this is going on in a complete vacuum. There’s a great deal of consultation that’s going on.
I think it’s the most consultative agreement of all time. And I’ve spent my career negotiating agreements, so I feel comfortable saying that. And I think that there’s a limit to what you can do in the public, but I think it’s important that the representatives of the public, who are their elected members of Congress, who are these representative folks on our advisory committees, do have a say in what happens in the negotiations.
QUESTION: But it is a take-it-or-leave-it deal at the end of the day? A deal’s going to be made and it has to be agreed by the Congress?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, the idea behind having the TPA – the Trade Promotion Authority – which is something every president has had for 40 years, is that when you negotiate complex international agreements, trying to bring an agreement to the Congress and then having every provision of it picked apart by individual members and amended would mean that you would be in an endless negotiation. And so I think it’s really a practical measure to say that as we have a constitutional system of government here with separation of powers, that part of the role of the Executive is to negotiate these agreements.
And the idea behind having all these consultations is that you would be negotiating something that you believe the majority of the members of the Congress would support, that you would take their views into account as you’re doing the negotiations, and so that voting yes or no would not be such a difficult task at that point because the end result is something that has occurred because of intense actual cooperation between these two branches of the government.
QUESTION: And sorry, final one. Australia already has an FTA with the United States, and as part of that, as you know, it rejected an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. Why should Australia, as part of a TPP, accept such a mechanism?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Because we are trying to do a very high-standard agreement. Investor-state dispute settlement is something that’s been in over 3,000 agreements globally. We have, I believe in cooperation with our colleagues in Australia, tried to make sure that the provisions that are in the investor-state make very clear that the ability of governments to regulate for health and safety are sacrosanct, and so that some of the pitfalls and things that have been pointed out along the way – we’ve tried to make sure that this agreement is going to deal with those. And I think it is very important that if we’re going to have disciplines, that we think about TPP going just beyond the U.S. and Australia but to a lot of other countries and being opened up to more countries over time, that we really do want to have that level of discipline on investor-state in the agreement.
QUESTION: But you know the case involving Australia and the tobacco companies.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Yes, I’m well aware of that, and that’s why we have, in negotiating this agreement, tried to make very clear that regulating for health and safety is not something that would be subjected to investor-state dispute settlement.
MODERATOR: We have a question here from —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) News Agency Taiwan. According to the USTR, the U.S. keep regularly update the TPP process to China. I just wondered: Do you have any information to – you would like to share to us regarding China’s attitude to join TPP?
And my second question is follow up the Taiwan’s join TPP – is willing. According to the Heritage Foundation’s report, the Taiwan get a higher score in freedom of the economy and the market access than Vietnam, the one of the member of the TPP. I just wonder: Is there any political issue or concern for Taiwan’s join the second round negotiation? Do you have any suggestion for Taiwan to – for the second negotiation? Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, so there is no second round of negotiations. So I just want to be very clear that, as I said, there is only a current ongoing negotiation of the countries that are part of the TPP. And what’s going to happen in the future in terms of countries that would dock onto the TPP has not been determined. And so it’s really not possible for me to say this or that country is going to be in another round because we’ve just haven’t gotten there yet. We do keep China regularly informed on what’s going on, and as I said, I think there is plenty of room for everybody to have economic and commercial interests in Asia. And so we will look forward to making those kind of decisions about expanding the TPP once we have a TPP that can be expanded.
MODERATOR: If there are no more questions – we do have another one in the back.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: (Laughter.)
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: He’s been sent on a mission. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I have, actually. Sorry, if I could just let my camera be set back up.
QUESTION: Good? Sorry, thanks. I appreciate this. You mentioned health and safety, but what about other issues like the environment? If Australia changes its environment laws, won’t those – can’t those be challenged under a dispute mechanism?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, like I said, I mean, what we’re trying to do is tighten up how this is all working. And I would posit that I think a lot of environmental regulations also are related to health and safety. That’s a big frame. So I don’t want to be categorical about things, but I think a lot of things that people would think about as belonging to environment are subsumed in the phrase that I just used.
QUESTION: What about – Australia has a trade relationship – an FTA with Japan, with South Korea, with China, with the U.S. Why would you recommend Australia accept the TPP if it reduces our trade outcomes (inaudible)?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Because I don’t think that it would. I don’t think that it would reduce the trade outcomes with your countries. I think, in fact, what it will do is provide a regularized platform for Australian investors in other countries. Just thinking about it from not just a purely defensive position, which the questions that you’ve been asking – I think if you think about it from the point of view of Australian companies who are investing elsewhere, it could be hugely beneficial to them. So I think – I don’t think that this will result in any diminution of Australia’s ability to protect its citizens on any issue.
And I would note that at least for the United States, we’ve had 18 cases taken against us and nobody has prevailed on any of those. So I think there is a – I think we have a good record in terms of recognizing that there is a legitimate ability of government to regulate and that that is not something that should be being challenged under investor-state dispute settlement.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Madam Secretary. Maria Garcia with Notimex, a Mexican news agency. Organizations who worked for the rights of immigrants are planning to protest against the TPP in these dates because they think that the TPP could take jobs to the cheaper countries in Asia. What could you say to them?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: You mean organizations in the United States who support immigrants?
QUESTION: Yes. Here. They are planning on protesting these dates here in D.C.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Well, we believe very, very strongly that providing a level playing field for our companies is only going to help create more jobs for our middle class, for our small businesses, and making rules less bureaucratic, more transparent is going to aid that. And the actual net benefit is going to be a benefit to our workers, or we wouldn’t be doing this. So that’s what I would say back.
It’s true that manufacturing has spread out because we are in a global world, but we aren’t going to be able to go backwards. We’re going to have to face the fact that we’re in a global world and we want to make sure that we are able to as the United States be as competitive as possible in that world, and we believe laying down these rules is going to actually help keep jobs at home.
QUESTION: A simple question on the TPP. So you said the TPA won’t prevent the TPP going forward. So are you optimistic that the TPP can be done by June – this June?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I’m not going to give a deadline, but I hope that we will be done sometime in the spring, broadly defined. (Laughter.) Broadly-defined, broadly-defined.
And given the weather here, who knows when spring will come. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Spring is coming.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: No, I heard we’re getting snow on Thursday. We’re all hoping for that.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: When is snow coming?
QUESTION: No, the TPP. (Laughter.) Weather isn’t one of my things. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Like April —
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I can’t give you an exact date, but I think we are very far along in the negotiations and we’re very optimistic that we will be done sometime in the near future. That’s the best I can say.
QUESTION: Ma’am, since you mentioned the WTO, I wanted to ask you about the fact that the Europeans tried to bring WTO action against the counter-sanctions that the Russians bring against them. So does it make sense to you? Basically, countries sanction someone, and then are unhappy that there are some responsive measures. Are sanctions allowed by the WTO?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: I am not a WTO lawyer, so I hesitate to answer that last question. I think that’ll be something that’ll have to be decided by a panel, and it’s – obviously, one of the things about the WTO is anyone who believes that there is a violation has the right to bring a case and see what happens, and that’s really the most I can say.
QUESTION: Frankly, I don’t think I heard an answer to the question about sanctions actually hurting Ukraine – not the Russian people, but Ukraine. Thanks.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: We – as I said, we have tried to be very careful with the sanctions that we put on. We put them on for specific purposes. We have tried not to use a broad brush. And so we hope that the targeted sanctions will have the effect that we desired, which is really a change in the situation on the ground with regard to what is happening with the separatists and the military action that’s going on in Ukraine. And that’s really what we want. We want Ukraine to – sovereignty to be respected and for their economy to be able to grow without conflict.
MODERATOR: Last time I said no more, there was still one more.
QUESTION: When you were asked about transparency, I think you said something about the texts being provided to a committee, and I just wanted clarification on that. Are you saying that then those texts are public, and are they – I just need to understand what you mean by that committee and whether those texts are ever made public.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Those are – you mean the cleared advisors?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: There are cleared – there are advisors that are appointed. They have security clearances. They are allowed to look at the texts and to comment, but they are not allowed to – those are not public. The idea is that that’s a way to have representatives of companies, of organized labor, of NGO community, of other civil society be able to have an input. But it’s done in a situation that is confidential because, as I explained before, this is not – putting out negotiating texts in the newspaper is not going to be a recipe for ever coming to a conclusion on anything. And I would defy you to find any major international agreement that was negotiated in that manner. I think you have to be able to talk to people frankly and find solutions to problems that are presented so that both sides feel that they are getting what they need to get.
QUESTION: The advisors then are actually – as you’re saying, they are representatives of companies and labor?
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Organized labor. These are – there’s a – these are set up by a U.S. law, under U.S. law, and they’ve been in existence since the ‘60s, I think, but maybe the ‘70s. I don’t know the exact dates, but they’ve been in existence for a long time under this law. And there are members of all of these groups that are part of these committees, and they don’t just advise on these negotiations, they advise on – generally on trade policy issues.
MODERATOR: That seems like a really good point for us to wrap up with a plug for our next program, which is coming up on Thursday morning at 10:30. It’s another chance for you to ask questions about TPA and about the free trade agreement. That will be with Jane Harman, who is a former congresswoman and currently the president of the Wilson Center here in Washington. Thank you very much for today, and that’s the end of our briefing.
UNDER SECRETARY NOVELLI: Thank you.