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Uncle Sam Can’t Shield Trade Position Paper

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative must release a document concerning its position on favored foreign investors, a federal judge ruled.

"Document 1 sets forth the United States' initial proposed position on the meaning of the phrase 'in like circumstances,'" U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts explained Wednesday. "This phrase 'helps clarify when a country must treat foreign investors as favorably as local or other foreign investors - i.e., when 'national' treatment or 'most-favored-nation' treatment applies."

Claiming that the office had failed to honor a request for the document under the Freedom of Information Act, the Center for International Environmental Law filed suit.

The government countered that release of the one-page document would damage its relationship with the other countries involved in the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). As such, it claimed FOIA foreign policy and national security exemptions applied.

Though the court previously denied the motions, the office filed them again. Roberts said nothing has changed.

"Having been afforded three opportunities to justify withholding the document, USTR has not provided a plausible or logical explanation for why disclosure of the document would harm the United States' foreign relations," he wrote.

The document is a U.S. document and "its disclosure would not necessarily provide a basis for foreign officials to think that United States might dishonor its commitments to keep foreign information confidential," the 18-page decision states.

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