United States government neglects environment in trade negotiations

This video is called WikiLeaks Leaks Controversial Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Documents.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Administration Is Seen as Retreating on Environment in Talks on Pacific Trade


JAN. 15, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is retreating from previous demands of strong international environmental protections in order to reach agreement on a sweeping Pacific trade deal that is a pillar of President Obama’s strategic shift to Asia, according to documents obtained by WikiLeaks, environmentalists and people close to the contentious trade talks.

The negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be one of the world’s biggest trade agreements, have exposed deep rifts over environmental policy between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. As it stands now, the documents, viewed by The New York Times, show that the disputes could undo key global environmental protections.

The environmental chapter of the trade deal has been among the most highly disputed elements of negotiations in the pact. Participants in the talks, which have dragged on for three years, had hoped to complete the deal by the end of 2013.

Environmentalists said that the draft appears to signal that the United States will retreat 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 that is a top priority for Mr. Obama.

Ilana Solomon, the director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, said the draft omits crucial language ensuring that increased trade will not lead to further environmental destruction.

“It rolls back key standards set by Congress to ensure that the environment chapters are legally enforceable, in the same way the commercial parts of free-trade agreements are,” Ms. Solomon said. The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund have been following the negotiations closely and are expected to release a report on Wednesday criticizing the draft.

The draft documents are dated Nov. 24 and there has been one meeting since then.

The documents consist of the environmental chapter as well as a “Report from the Chairs,” which offers an unusual behind-the-scenes look into the divisive trade negotiations, until now shrouded in secrecy. The report indicates that the United States has been pushing for tough environmental provisions, particularly legally binding language that would provide for sanctions against participating countries for environmental violations. The United States is also insisting that the nations follow existing global environmental treaties.

But many of those proposals are opposed by most or all of the other Pacific Rim nations working on the deal, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Peru. Developing Asian countries, in particular, have long resisted outside efforts to enforce strong environmental controls, arguing that they could hurt their growing economies.

The report appears to indicate that the United States is losing many of those fights, and bluntly notes the rifts: “While the chair sought to accommodate all the concerns and red lines that were identified by parties regarding the issues in the text, many of the red lines for some parties were in direct opposition to the red lines expressed by other parties.”

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.”

In addition, the draft does not contain clear requirements for a ban on shark finning, which is the practice of capturing sharks and cutting off their fins — commonly used in shark-fin soup — and throwing back the sharks to die. The dish is a delicacy in many of the Asian negotiating countries. At this point the draft says that the countries “may include” bans “as appropriate” on such practices.

Earlier pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement included only appendices, which called for cooperation on environmental issues but not legally binding terms or requirements. Environmentalists derided them as “green window dressing.”

But in May 2007, President George W. Bush struck an environmental deal with Democrats in the Senate and the House as he sought to move a free-trade agreement with Peru through Congress. In what became known as the May 10 Agreement, Democrats got Mr. Bush to agree that all American free-trade deals would include a chapter with environmental provisions, phrased in the same legally binding language as chapters on labor, agriculture and intellectual property. The Democrats also insisted that the chapter require nations to recognize existing global environmental treaties.

Since then, every American free-trade deal has included that strong language, although all have been between the United States and only one other country. It appears to be much tougher to negotiate environmental provisions in a 12-nation agreement.

“Bilateral negotiations are a very different thing,” said Jennifer Haverkamp, the former head of the United States trade representative’s environmental office. “Here, if the U.S. is the only one pushing for this, it’s a real uphill battle to get others to agree if they don’t like it.”

But business groups say the deal may need to ease up. “There are some governments with developing economies that will need more time and leeway,” said Cal Cohen, president of the Emergency Committee for American Trade, a group of about 100 executives and trade associations that lobbies the United States trade negotiator on the deal. “When you think about the evolution of labor provisions, you realize how many centuries the development of high standards took.”

Since the trade talks began, lawmakers and advocacy groups have assailed the negotiators for keeping the process secret, and WikiLeaks has been among the most critical voices. The environment chapter is the third in a series of Trans-Pacific Partnership documents released by WikiLeaks. In November, the group posted the draft chapter on intellectual property. In December, the site posted documents detailing disagreements between the negotiating parties on other issues. The site is expected to release more documents as the negotiations unfold.

We are an unlikely coalition of groups including Corporate Accountability International, EFF, Sierra Club, CWA, Reddit, and we are standing together to stop a bill to “fast track” TPP through Congress: here.

“Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership an environmental disaster waiting to happen?” (spoiler alert: yes): here.

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4 thoughts on “United States government neglects environment in trade negotiations

  1. A dangerous trade pact between the U. S. and 11 countries along the Pacific Rim called the Trans-Pacific Partnership would strip our government’s power to manage U.S. gas exports, opening the floodgates for fracking to feed foreign markets.

    So it’s no surprise the United States Trade Representative is negotiating this trade agreement in almost complete secrecy.

    Tell your Representatives to Oppose Fast Tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    Thanks for all you do!

    Bob Fertik


    Dear Activist,

    Trade agreements should not be made behind closed doors.

    Tell Congress to oppose fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership!

    Take Action!

    When it comes to trade agreements, the United States is in a big fracking mess.

    A dangerous trade pact between the U.S. and 11 countries along the Pacific Rim called the Trans-Pacific Partnership would strip our government’s power to manage U.S. gas exports, opening the floodgates for fracking, sacrificing our air and water quality in order to feed foreign markets. So it’s no surprise the United States Trade Representative is negotiating this trade agreement in almost complete secrecy.

    Among other problems, the agreement would boost exports of natural gas which means more fracking in our backyards, near our schools, and next to our hospitals. No one in their right mind would support destroying their communities!

    What’s even worse is that a piece of legislation called “fast-track” could help Congress to quietly and quickly push the trade pact across the finish line.

    Tell Congress not to fast-track this trade agreement! In less than a minute, you can send a message to protect communities across the country.

    Just take it from the folks in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas where hundreds of complaints have been made about well-water contamination from oil or gas drilling, and pollution was confirmed in a number of them.1

    If Congress thinks they can flood our communities with more fracking thanks to a secret trade agreement, we’d better flood their offices with messages. By keeping us in the dark, Congress will make sure only a select few government officials and a handful of Big Oil and Big Gas will have their voices heard. Our phone calls will leave them with no choice but to bring this trade agreement into the light of day.

    Sign the petition and tell Congress not to make trade agreements behind closed doors!

    Thanks for all you do to protect the environment,

    Ilana Solomon
    Director, Responsible Trade Program
    Sierra Club

    [1] 4 states confirm water pollution from drilling, USA Today, January 5, 2014.


  2. Mon Nov 10, 2014 8:34 am (PST) . Posted by:
    “bigraccoon” redwoodsaurus


    Video at http://tinyurl.com/p8r7hx6

    Senate Republicans are gearing up for a war against the Obama administration's environmental rules, identifying them as a top target when they take control in January. The GOP sees the midterm elections as a mandate to roll back rules from the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies, with Republicans citing regulatory costs they say cripple the economy and skepticism about the cause of climate change. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) identified his top priority come January as “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.” McConnell made his defense of coal a major piece of Kentucky’s economy, a highlight of his reelection bid, which he won easily over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

    He said he feels a “deep responsibility”; to stop the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, as it proposed to do in January for newly built generators and in June for existing ones. But those are far from the only rules the GOP wants to target. Republican lawmakers are planning an all-out assault on Obama’s environmental agenda, including rules on mercury and other air toxics from power plants, limits on ground-level ozone that causes smog, mountaintop mining restrictions and the EPA’s attempt to redefine its jurisdiction over streams and ponds. The Interior Department is also in the crosshairs, with rules due to come soon on hydraulic fracturing on public land and protecting streams from mining waste.


  3. Pingback: Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens New Zealand healthcare | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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