Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a Polluters Bill of Rights

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade deal between the US and several Asian countries that will make environmental regulations vulnerable to legal challenges from business. It has been described as a secretive, far reaching corporate bill of rights because it will give corporations the legal authority to sue governments if they impede their capacity for profit. This could include attempts by government to limit pollution through carbon pricing or emissions reduction pledges.

The deal provides an incentive to expand production of some of the dirtiest fossil fuels on earth (oil sands and coal). The TTP makes President Obama's climate policy vulnerable to litigation. There are also concerns that it could impose restrictions on green procurement policies, lift limits on chemical companies, prevent full food labeling disclosure and even support biopiracy.

The TPP includes the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. There are also concerns about the the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and European Union.

As reported by Climate Progress, there is a precedent for fossil fuel stakeholders to use trade agreements to advance their self interest ahead of environmental considerations. In 2013 American mining company, Lone Pine Resources, used the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to sue the Canadian province of Quebec for passing a fracking ban. The basis of the ongoing suit is little more than the fact that the ban cost them $250 million.

Legal channels have also been used in a Chevron suit against Ecuadorian activists. The Chevron lawsuit was in response to being ordered to pay almost $20 billion in damages for environmental contamination.

Republicans and many Democrats including President Obama support the deal while Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have come down firmly against it. All indications are the the TPP will get through Congress.

It is customary for champions of the green economy to be skeptical about trade deals. As this narrative goes, the bigger the deal the more our skepticism is justified. While trade deals are not necessarily environmentally harmful, concerns about about the TPP are warranted.

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