US called main ‘outlier’ when it comes to strong protections; Leak comes as Obama tries to ram trade deal through Congress
Confirming the suspicions and fears of environmental campaigners and concerned individuals across the globe, Wikileaks on Wednesday released a draft version of the ‘Environment Chapter’ from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), exposing most of the so-called “environmental protections” as toothless policies that serve to protect corporate profit not Mother Earth.
In its review of the chapter—which covers environmental issues related to trade, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in ‘environmental’ goods and services—Wikileaks described the chapter as functioning like “a public relations exercise” and saying the text is most notable “for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures.”
“Today’s WikiLeaks release shows that the public sweetner in the TPP is just media sugar water,” said Wikileaks’ publisher Julian Assange in a statement. “The fabled TPP environmental chapter turns out to be a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism.”
The draft chapter, which was presented at the Salt Lake City, Utah round of negotiations that took places in November, contains language from the participating nations describing their positions on environmental protections that would be included in the final deal.
According to Jane Kelsey, a professor of environmental law at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, the leaked text of the agreement shows no balance between commercial interests and those of the environment.
“Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable… The corporate agenda wins both ways.” –Jane Kelsey, Univ. of Auckland
“Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable,” she writes in a public statement (pdf) Wednesday. “Contrast that to other chapters that subordinate the environment, natural resources and indigenous rights to commercial objectives and business interests. The corporate agenda wins both ways.”
Kelsey’s review of the draft also points out that the main outlier on environmental protections is the United States. She also notes that because the protections included in the draft fall short even of those contained in previous trade agreements backed by the US, passage of the deal will create a “particular political dilemma” for President Obama and other backers. She writes:
The text falls far below the standards it has insisted are included in all US free trade agreements since May 2007, which resulted from a deal reached between the Democrat-‐controlled Congress and President George W Bush.
The most fundamental problem for the US is the refusal of all the other countries to agree that the chapter should be subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism as the rest of the agreement. It provides for consultation at officials and ministerial levels, leading to arbitration and agreement to a plan of action, but there are no penalties if the state does not implement the plan.
Obama is going to find this a very hard sell to domestic constituencies. The timing of the leak could hardly be worse. On 9 January 2014 a Bill seeking fast track authority was presented to the Congress. The controversial fast track process requires the Congress to accept or reject the deal as a whole and imposes a strict time limit on debate. The numbers were already stacking up against the Bill, with Democrats especially critical of the erosion of their powers and the secrecy of the negotiations, as well as the reported content. This leaked environment chapter will further erode support among Democratic members of the House of Representatives who are up for re-election later this year.
Obama is going to have to rely heavily on unfriendly Republicans.
The secretive TPP trade deal between the United States and 11 other Pacific rim nations that has been negotiated with the backing of corporate interests but kept secret from the general public and even most lawmakers from the participating countries.
Ilana Solomon, the director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, responded to the leaked draft by telling the New York Times on Wednesday that the language in the deal omits crucial protections against increased environmental destruction caused by globalized trade practices.
“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.
Long sought by journalists, green activists, and environmental advocacy organizations the trade deal’s chapter on the environment will be hotly reviewed throughout the day. Follow reactions and updates on Twitter: