WikiLeaks offers $100,000 bounty for Asian trade pact pushed by Obama

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (R) listens as Ecuador's Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patino (2nd R) speaks, during a news conference at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London August 18, 2014. REUTERS/John Stillwell/pool/Files

By Krista Hughes WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Whistleblower website WikiLeaks offered a $100,000 bounty for copies of a Pacific trade pact that is a central plank of President Barack Obama's diplomatic pivot to Asia on Tuesday. WikiLeaks, which has published leaked chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiating text before, started a drive to crowdsource money for the reward, just as U.S. unions launched a new push to make the text public. "The transparency clock has run out on the TPP. No more secrecy. No more excuses. Let's open the TPP once and for all," WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a statement. Nine hours after the campaign was launched, WikiLeaks' website was showing $25,835 pledged by more than 100 people. The text of the TPP, which is still under negotiation and would boost the flow of goods between 12 nations from Japan to Chile, is a classified document. The U.S. Trade Representative has increased availability of the text to lawmakers, but critics complain there is still not enough oversight. Union group AFL-CIO led a march on the USTR office in Washington to demand to read the text, but said it found the doors locked. Under legislation awaiting approval from the House of Representatives, the text of the TPP will be publicly available for 60 days before it is signed by the president. But it is still unclear when the House will debate so-called fast-track legislation granting the White House power to speed trade deals through Congress, although House majority leader Kevin McCarthy has said a vote is likely this month. Negotiations on the TPP are close to completion but many trading partners are waiting for approval of fast track, which would stop lawmakers from amending trade deals like the TPP, before making their final offers. Most of Obama's own Democrats oppose the legislation because of fears over the impact of trade deals on jobs, and amid fierce lobbying from unions to vote "no." Only 18 Democrats have signaled support and dozens of Republicans, opposed to giving the White House more power, are expected to vote "no," leaving the 217-vote threshold needed for passage in doubt. As part of its education push, USTR released a new report on Tuesday listing tariffs that U.S. exporters face in exporting their goods overseas, compared with the average 1.4 percent foreign companies face exporting to the United States. U.S. wine faces tariffs of up to 55 percent in TPP countries, fresh vegetables as much as 90 percent and textiles up to 100 percent. (Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Alan Crosby)