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Environmental TPP Chapter Leaked: Weaker Than Previous Agreements

Minimal Requirements and No Enforcement Mechanism Sure To Increase Opposition to TPP and Fast Track

Sierra Club: Obama’s record on environment and trade worse than George W. Bush

The Trans-Pacific Partnership will be a step backward on the environment and global trade, according to a leaked chapter of the TPP on the environment by Wikileaks.  At a time of worldwide environmental challenges including species die-offs, dangerous pollution in the oceans and other waterways as well as climate change, people would expect that trade could be a tool to protect the planet not hasten ecological collapse, but the profits first mentality of the TPP will do the opposite.

Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund notes this missed opportunity to use trade to protect the planet saying in a press release: “The lack of fully-enforceable environmental safeguards means negotiators are allowing a unique opportunity to protect wildlife and support legal sustainable trade of renewable resources to slip through their fingers.”

Wikileaks describes the leaked environmental chapter as

“The Environment Chapter covers what the Parties propose to be their positions on: environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in ‘environmental’ goods and services. It also outlines how to resolve environmental disputes arising out of the treaty’s subsequent implementation.”

The leaked chapter is a warning to Congress that its concerns will be ignored in the TPP and will surely erode already dissipating support to grant President Obama Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority.  The New York Times reports that in May 2007, President George W. Bush agreed with Congress that to approve a Peru trade deal there would be an environment chapter with legally binding language, prior to this trade deals included the environment in appendices that were not binding. Since then, every American free-trade deal has included that strong environmental language. As a Joint Analysis of Leaked Environment Chapter Consolidated Text by Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, and NRDC, notes “the leaked text takes a significant step back from the May 2007 agreement.” The Times writes:

“As of now, the draft environmental chapter does not require the nations to follow legally binding environmental provisions or other global environmental treaties. The text notes only, for example, that pollution controls could vary depending on a country’s ‘domestic circumstances and capabilities.”

Environmentalists told the New York Times that the Obama Administration was “retreat[ing] on a variety of environmental protections — including legally binding pollution control requirements and logging regulations and a ban on harvesting sharks’ fins — to advance a trade deal . . . .”  Further the Sierra Club’s Ilana Solomon, saying “the draft omits crucial language ensuring that increased trade will not lead to further environmental destruction.” The problems in the draft are detailed in their Joint Analysis.

In a press release Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club says: “If the environment chapter is finalized as written in this leaked document, President Obama’s environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush’s. This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues – oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections – and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts.”

A statement from Jane Kelsey of the University of Auklund analyzing the text was also published by Wikileaks.  In the statement she summarizes the environmental standards as ‘the corporations always win’ writing:

“Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable. Contrast that to other chapters that subordinate the environment, natural resources and indigenous rights to commercial objectives and business interests. The corporate agenda wins both ways.”

She points out that unlike other chapters, disputes in the environmental chapter are not subject to the dispute settlement mechanism of the rest of the agreement. Instead, environmental disputes will be handles through consultation between governments that leads to arbitration and a plan of action but provides for no enforcement if a country does not meet the requirements these plans.  Thus, there is no way to enforce protections against the environment.

She also writes that the environmental chapter does not meet the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity nor the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Kelsey points out that it is not only the environmental chapter that will impact the environment, listing 11 of the 29 chapters having significant environmental impacts:

  • investment, e.g. challenges to tighter rules on mining and remediation rules, bans on fracking and nuclear energy, performance requirements on foreign investors to use of clean technology, restrictions on numbers and locations of waste plants or eco-tourism projects, not lowering environmental standards to attract investors
  • goods market access, e.g. tariffs (see Article CSR8 on zero tariffs)
  • non-tariff measures – e.g. green technologies for motor vehicles, prescribed manufacturing or processing methods
  • customs, e.g. preferential processing for smaller cc vehicles
  • agriculture, e.g. differential tariffs on organics
  • subsidies and countervailing measures, e.g. for green or clean energy production
  • sanitary and phytosanitary (quarantine), e.g. bans on use of certain pesticides in products, bans or restrictions on imports of GE products
  • technical barriers to trade, e.g. GE tracing labelling requirements, food content labelling, emission standards (see also non-tariff measures)
  • intellectual property, technologies, seeds, patented food products, organics trademarks, biodiversity, genetic resources
  • cross-border services e.g. e-services including computerised remote operation of oil and gas extraction, engineering and other professional services, remediation services, delivery of environmental technologies; the chapter is likely to crossover with investment on local establishment of commercial activities, eg waste disposal and water companies, mining and fisheries processing operations, etc.
  • financial services e.g.. tradeable financial instruments such as energy derivatives, carbon credits.

In the end, what does the environment get from the TPP?  “Environmental protections are only as effective as their enforcement provisions, and a trade agreement with weak enforcement language will do little or nothing to protect our communities and wildlife,” said Peter Lehner, executive director of the NRDC.

Further reading:

Joint Analysis of Leaked Environment Chapter Consolidated Text by Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, and NRDC
TPP Environment Chapter Analysis by Professor Jane Kelsey, New Zealand

Wikileaks Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Series so far:


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