Note: Below is the executive summary of a report by the Sierra Club that focuses on the environmental abuses by TPP countries as well as on the shortcomings of the TPP on stopping environmental abuses.
Ongoing Environmental Abuses Cast Fresh Doubt on the TPP’s Weak Conservation Terms
Detailed analysis by leading academics, environmental law experts, and environmental organizations like the Sierra Club has already shown that the environment chapter of the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) is too weak to compel meaningful environmental protection.
As further evidence of this, our new research finds that TPP countries are continuing to permit and even facilitate serious environmental degradation in the very conservation areas that the TPP seeks to address. In some TPP countries, these environmental abuses are actually increasing. The fact that TPP countries are acting as if the deal would require no reduction in such abuses casts further doubt on the notion that the TPP would lead to increased environmental protection.
Indeed, the more likely result would be increased degradation in the conservation areas mentioned by the TPP, given that the deal’s weak environmental provisions fail to compensate for conservation threats posed by TPP tariff cuts on sensitive goods like shark fins, palm oil, elephant ivory, and fish.
Key Findings: TPP countries continue to lead the world in critical environmental abuses
Some TPP countries are among the world’s worst offenders with respect to conservation of fisheries, marine life, biodiversity, and endangered species. While these are the very conservation areas that the TPP seeks to address, these TPP countries have not shown signs that they intend to alter their consistent pattern of serious abuses, even as they prepare to ratify the deal. That may be due to the fact that the TPP’s weak language, in most instances, does not require them to take such corrective action, and in the few exceptions, is unlikely to be enforced. The sheer scale of the unabated abuses should give lawmakers pause. For example:
• Fishery subsidies: Japan remains by far the world’s largest provider of subsidies that drive overfishing. Instead of reducing its subsidies in preparation for the TPP, Japan is now planning to introduce new subsidies to boost fish exports. The government actually cites the TPP’s tariff cuts as a reason for the subsidies increase.
• Illegal wildlife trade: Vietnam and Malaysia have been ranked by the World Wildlife Fund as the worst and third-worst countries among those involved in illegal wildlife trade for their failure to protect at-risk tigers, rhinos, and elephants in line with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Vietnam is now the subject of a public hearing before the Hague-based Wildlife Justice Commission for largely ignoring 5,000 pages of evidence, presented in January 2016, which revealed more than $50 million of illegal wildlife trade in just one town in Vietnam.
• Whales: Japan stands alone in killing hundreds of whales each year under the pretense of “scientific” research – a practice that the International Court of Justice ruled against in 2014. But Japan has continued its whaling program. In early 2016, a Japanese expedition killed 333 more whales.
• Sea turtles: Mexico and Peru are responsible for some of the highest sea turtle bycatch rates in the world. Mexico accounts for almost half of all recorded illegal turtle deaths, while Japan remains a major source of demand for illegal turtle shells to produce handicraft.
• Sharks: In December 2015, Japan and New Zealand blocked an international effort to ban the deadly practice of shark finning in the Pacific. Only four of the 12 TPP countries have full shark finning bans in place, and Peru remains the world’s fifth-largest shark fin exporter.
This paper explores the threats posed by the TPP, the TPP’s weak provisions, and the unabated abuses in TPP countries with respect to three critical environmental areas: marine megafauna, conservation and trade, and fisheries subsidies. TPP countries’ ongoing environmental abuses in these areas present fresh evidence that the deal, on net, would negatively impact at-risk animals and ecosystems, offering further reason to oppose the TPP.
Ongoing abuses reflect the weakness of the TPP environment chapter
The weaknesses of the TPP’s environment chapter can be summarized in four points:
• The provisions lack ambition, and in many cases call for a degree of environmental protection that falls short of existing laws.
• The language is often non-binding, with provisions describing what countries “should” do, not what they “shall” do. Such hortatory statements are not enforceable.
• The language is often non-specific, with provisions asking or requiring countries to take undefined “measures” to address an environmental problem. This sets the bar so low for compliance that the TPP could not be used to compel meaningful action.
• There is little evidence to suggest that provisions would be enforced, even where legally possible. The TPP replicates the same failed enforcement mechanism included in the last four U.S. trade deals for environmental provisions. The U.S. has never once brought a case against another country under any of these deals for environmental violations, despite widely documented abuses.
Read more Ongoing Environmental Abuses