The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement being finalized between the United States and eleven other countries largely avoids strengthening environmental protections, according to a leaked environmental chapter from the agreement that was published by WikiLeaks.
The environmental chapter lacks any enforcement mechanisms for whatever might be agreed upon between countries currently finalizing the agreement: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.
The drive to protect the interests of corporations over the world’s environment has fueled dysfunction in the process. Indeed, after talks in Salt Lake City, Utah, on the agreement in November 2013, the countries were unable to advance discussion on the environment because they could not agree on a definition of “environmental law.”
WikiLeaks stated in a press release, “When compared against other TPP chapters, the Environment Chapter is noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in ‘environmental’ goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise.”
Michael Brune, executive director for the Sierra Club, one of the largest and most influential environmental organizations in the US, reacted, “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.”
According to a Sierra Club analysis, it would not prohibit shark finning, even though the US is required by law to seek bans against this practice from countries. It relies on trade sanctions instead of fines if a country violates its obligations, which is a step backward. There also is no requirement in the drafted chapter to require countries stop illegal trade that may threaten communities or ecosystems.
A country must take measures that “allow it to take action.” In other words, the country must be fully capable of stopping the decimation or pollution of oceans, fish, forests, wildlife, etc, but there will be no penalty if they do not actually stop it, which undoubtedly will please corporations.
As Professor Jane Kelsey of Auckland University described in her analysis of the drafted chapter: