The Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement Would Harm Our Environment

By Michele Nash-Hoff (published on Huffington Post- 11-14-13)

Proponents say that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement would be a platform for economic integration and government deregulation for nations surrounding the Pacific Rim and facilitate free trade to counter China’s financial influence in Asia and the Pacific. The negotiating parties include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. Japan also announced its intention to join the agreement last spring. Because the TPP is intended as a “docking agreement,” other Pacific Rim countries could join over time, and the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia, and others are already expressing interest.

The TPP is poised to become the largest Free Trade Agreement in the world. According toCitizensTrade.org, “The ongoing, multi-year negotiations over the TPP are supposed to conclude this year, so the window of opportunity for preventing this free trade agreement is rapidly closing.”

Among other reasons about which I have written previously, opponents of the TPP say it would harm our planet’s environment, subverting climate change measures and regulation of mining, land use, and biotechnology. The Pacific Rim is an area of great significance from an environmental perspective. It includes Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, home to more than 11,000 species. It includes Peru and its Amazon Rainforest — one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth.

In May 2007, citizen-led advocacy groups including the Sierra Club forged a bipartisan consensus that set the minimum standards for environment, labor and other provisions to be included in future trade agreements. According to sections of the TPP that have been leaked, it appears that these minimum standards are being ignored.

It is essential that the environment chapter of the TPP build on the environmental protection progress that has been made:

“At the minimum, the chapter should be binding and subject to the same dispute settlement provisions as commercial chapters; ensure that countries uphold and strengthen their domestic environmental laws and policies and their obligations under agreed multilateral environmental agreements; and include biding provisions to address the core environment and conservation challenges of the Pacific Rim region, such as efforts to combat illegal trade in wood, wood products, and wildlife and to strengthen fisheries management.”

If you “Google” TPP and the environment, you come up with more than 20 pages of articles by one organization after another and one author after another expressing reasons why the TPP would harm the environment. The opposition to the TPP began as early as 2011 when the first drafts were leaked and intensified in 2012. These organizations include the Sierra ClubPublic Citizen group (founded by Ralph Nader), the Citizens Trade Campaign, and Economy in Crisis, among many others. A common thread of the articles is either a subtle or overt accusation that President Obama has “sold out” to Wall Street/big banks and multinational/transnational corporations.

On their website, Union-backed We Party Patriots states, “…the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being put together in extreme secrecy. This secrecy comes complete with a total lack of mainstream media coverage despite serious potential long-term effects. Leaked documents show that the TPP will have a chilling effect on the ability of the United States government to take legal action against multi-national corporations for their abuses of environmental, agricultural, and labor laws.”

The Fair World Project’s website states that in late 2012, “a group of labor leaders, trade justice advocates, family farmers, environmentalists, food sovereignty groups and others from the U.S., Canada and Mexico created a ‘North American Unity Statement Opposing NAFTA Expansion through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),’ with the goal of uniting 1,000 organizations in opposition to the TPP.”

On March 7, 2013, Friends of the Earth announced that it had released a new video, “Peril in the Pacific: Trans Pacific trade agreement threatens people and the planet.” The video illustrates these threats by telling the story of “Chevron v. Ecuador” international investment suit brought under an existing U.S. treaty. The video raises questions like: “Who should pay to clean up what has been called the “Rainforest Chernobyl” in the Ecuadorian Amazon? Why are the people of the rainforest who suffered the most not represented at the international tribunal hearing the case? Is it U.S. policy to favor the financial interests of multi-national corporations over people and the environment in such disputes?”

The video also asks why the negotiating framework for the TPP favors Wall Street and multinational corporations at the expense of current U. S. environmental and climate policy and why does it allow multinational corporations to challenge laws that protect our air, land and water.

Because the Asia-Pacific region accounts for about one third of all the threatened species in the world, Friends of the Earth is concerned that the TPP trade agreement potentially checkmates many of our country’s past environmental victories and would block new initiatives. The natural environment and rich biodiversity of the Pacific Rim are threatened by illegal and/or unsustainable commercial exploitation of the ocean, natural resources, and forests.

Friends of the Earth recommends that the TPP negotiators must address the following issues to avoid the most serious environmental harms by:

  • Including an environment chapter that would obligate countries to enforce domestic environmental protections and abide by global environmental agreements that are enforceable through international lawsuits.
  • Rejecting the proposed TPP investment chapter that would authorize foreign investors to bypass domestic courts and bring suit before special international tribunals biased in favor of multinationals to seek awards of unlimited monetary damages in compensation for the cost of complying with environmental and other public interest regulations.
  • Rejecting “provisions of the TPP intellectual property chapter that would provide international legal protections for corporate patents on plant and animal life, granting companies ownership and sole access to these building blocks of life.”
  • Rejecting the regulatory coherence chapter that could hamstring environmental regulation and “encourage cost-benefit analysis that exaggerates financial costs and minimizes the intrinsic value of protecting living things, wild places, and the stability of the ecosystem.”
  • Friends of the Earth urges that the TPP “must serve to strengthen environmental protection and support the biodiversity in the Pacific Rim and not facilitate a race to the bottom in environmental deregulation.”

What surprises me is that all of the above organizations supported President Obama in his bid for reelection last year despite the fact that he had gone back on his pledge “to oppose Bush-style free trade agreements that lead to thousands of lost American jobs” and his wordto “not support NAFTA-type trade agreements” in his 2008 campaign. Now that he is elected for his second and last term, what incentive does he have to listen to the opinions of these organizations that oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement? None!

A few conservative news outlets such as WorldNet Daily began to recognize the dangers of the TPP early this year, beginning with the article, “Obama skirting Congress in globalist plan?” in which Jerome Corsi warn that “the administration apparently plans to restrict congressional prerogatives to an up-or-down vote” utilizing the “fast-track authority,” a provision under the Trade Promotion Authority that requires Congress to review a FTA under limited debate, in an accelerated time frame subject to a yes-or-no vote. Under fast-track authority, there is no provision for Congress to modify the agreement by submitting amendments to ensure foreign partners that the FTA, once signed, will not be changed during the legislative process.

In a more recent article, “Obama’s 2-ocean globalist plan,” Jerome Corsi writes, “Quietly, the Obama administration is systematically putting into place a two-ocean globalist plan that will dwarf all prior trade agreements, including NAFTA, with the goal of establishing the global sovereignty envisioned by New World Order enthusiasts. The two agreements are the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TIPP. WND has learned the Obama administration plans to jam the TPP through Congress no later than Dec. 31.”

We certainly cannot expect to influence the President to oppose the TPP near the end of three-years of negotiations that took place under his direction. With the virtual black out of coverage about the TPP in the mainstream media, the best we can do is make our opinions heard loud and clear to our Senators and Congressional representatives and urge our family, friends, and members of our personal and business network to do the same. We must urge our elected representatives to vote against granting President Obama “fast track authority” under the Trade Promotion Authority. There is no time to waste. Contact your congressional representative and tell them we cannot afford another damaging “free trade” agreement that would destroy our national sovereignty, hurt American manufacturers, and harm our environment. Tell them to vote “no” to granting the President “fast track authority.”

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Ty Markham
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