The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed international trade agreement, involving 12 countries and covering a range of topics including intellectual property, the environment and workers’ rights. The TPP has been negotiated in secret for almost four years.
The 12 countries are: United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei Darussalam. The TPP agreement would cover 40% of global GDP and one-third of global trade.
In November 2013 the US Trade Representative, Michael Froman, said that President Obama, "will not support a TPP agreement that does not have strong environmental provisions."
He made his promise at a lunch hosted by World Wildlife Fund – shortly after a group of US NGOs wrote to Froman urging him "to ensure that a strong and enforceable environment chapter is included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement."
Last week, Wikileaks released a draft environment chapter of the TPP. Surprise: it is neither strong nor enforceable. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, slammed the leaked draft in a statement:
"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."
Obama undermining Bush’s environment guarantees
In May 2007, President Bush reached an agreement with the Democrat-controlled Congress about what had to be included in the environment chapter of any US Free Trade Agreement.
This included making the environmental chapter enforceable through trade sanctions. All US trade agreements since then have complied. Until now.
Obama hopes to bulldoze the TPP through using a mechanism called ‘Fast Track trade authority’, that would allow the White House to negotiate and sign trade deals without Congressional oversight.
An ‘unlikely coalition of groups’ is opposing Fast Track – click here for more information and readers in the US can sign the petition opposing Fast Track:
A discussion featuring some of these groups on a reddit_AMA (AMA = ask me anything) covers much of what is wrong with the TPP.
Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and WWF-US have highlighted four main problems with the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Environmental Chapter:
- There is no enforcement. Julian Assange describes the draft environmental chapter as "a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism."
- It does not discourage overfishing. The draft text states that "each Party shall seek to operate a fisheries management system that regulates marine wild capture fishing and that is designed to prevent overfishing and overcapacity". The words "seek to" and "designed to" provide a loophole the size of a factory trawler.
- It does not take a strong enough stand against trade in illegal wildlife.
- It does not go far enough to prevent illegal logging. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other groups are calling for each country in the TPP to enact legislation similar to the US Lacey Act prohibiting the import of illegally logged timber products.
But other Chapters are very enforceable, indeed
While the Environmental Chapter is not enforceable, other chapters are, as Professor Jane Kelsey of the University of Aukland notes:
"The core chapters of these agreements, especially on investment, agriculture, intellectual property and services, impose pro-corporate rules on governments and communities.
"Those rules are toxic to biodiversity, ecosystems, indigenous knowledge and resources, human and animal health, water, forests fish and other natural resources, and other aspects of conservation and the environment."
The issue of Trade and Biodiversity in the TPP is important from the perspective of indigenous peoples’ rights. In a commentary on the Wikileaks website, Professor Kelsey points out that most of Article SS.13: Trade and Biodiversity is "weak and aspirational".
A Charter for biopiracy
Paragraph 4 of Article 13 recognises the rights of States over natural resources – and rather than acknowledging the right of indigenous peoples and local communities to control who has access to genetic resources on their lands and forests, it hands over that right to the State.
Similarly, in the next paragraph the right to give or withhold prior, informed consent over access to genetic resources is given to the State.
So under the TPP, the benefits obtained from using these genetic resources are to be shared fairly and equitably with the State, not with indigenous peoples and local communities.
As Kelsey points out, this "falls far short of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples". It undermines indigenous rights and risks leaving indigenous peoples and local communities wide open to the threat of biopiracy.
Several of the governments involved in negotiating the TPP are also interested in REDD – the name given to often controversial initiatives to Reduce carbon Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation.
The TPP could have serious consequences for REDD. First, the Financial Services Chapter could affect trade in carbon credits.
Second, the draft Environment Chapter recognises "the role that market and non-market approaches can play in achieving climate change objectives". It is also weak on illegal logging, and the TPP could lead to increased deforestation.
Third, the TPP could make national REDD legislation more difficult, because mining, logging, or oil palm corporations could sue governments that pass REDD legislation aimed at protecting forest, but considered to be in breach of the TPP.
The TPP juggernaut must be halted
These are far from the only reasons to oppose the TPP. More broadly it is inherently anti-democratic, anti-labour, anti-people and anti-environment.
It represents an enormous power grab by the world’s transnational corporations, taking power away not only from workers and other citizens but also from governments.
Climate campaign group 350.org has produced a great info-graphic (below) explaining these broader issues behind the TPP.