Leaked TPP documents: Administration may give up key environmental protections

The Obama administration appears to be sacrificing the environment in its push to fast-track a deal

Published January 15, 2014 3:21PM (EST)

In its urgency to reach agreement on an ambitious international trade agreement, the Obama administration may give up on key environmental protections, documents obtained by WikiLeaks reveal. Obama has indicated that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping deal being negotiated between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, is a top priority, and the push to fast-track the negotiations, the leaked documents indicate, appears to be coming at the cost of protections such as legally binding pollution control requirements, logging regulations and a ban on harvesting shark fins.

While the U.S. has been pushing for tough environmental provisions, the other nations working on the deal, which include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Peru, oppose them. And they currently have the upper hand, the New York Times reports:

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.

...“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.”

The World Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have released their own analysis of the leaked documents, which they say fail to meet the standard set by Congress back in 2007, when a bipartisan agreement to include an environmental provision in all American free-trade deals was reached.

“The lack of fully-enforceable environmental safeguards means negotiators are allowing a unique opportunity to protect wildlife and support legal sustainable trade of renewable resources to slip through their fingers," Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF, said in a statement. "These nations account for more than a quarter of global trade in fish and wood products and they have a responsibility to address trade’s impact on wildlife crime, illegal logging, and overfishing.”

By Lindsay Abrams

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Environmentalism Free Trade Agreement Obama Administration Pollution Trans-pacific Partnership