TPP agreement sacrifices environment for corporate interests: WikiLeaks
The leaked secret draft of the TPP´s (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Environment Chapter, published Wednesday by WikiLeaks, underscores how multinational corporate interests rule the negotiating process of this important 12-nation treaty, representing more than 40 per cent of the world's GDP and one-third of world trade.
On 13 November last year, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text of the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter, which showed how nations were forced to change laws and to prosecute in defence of the biggest corporate interests in the field of IP rights.
In sharp contrast, the Environment Chapter does not include enforcement mechanisms serving the defence of the environment; it is vague and weak, and adheres to the lowest common denominator of environmental interests.
The word “appropriate” is found in various forms in 43 places in the draft text, in such contexts as: “Where possible and appropriate, the Parties shall seek to complement and utilise their existing cooperation mechanisms and take into account relevant work of regional and international organizations.” The word “may” is also found 43 times in the 23-page draft.
In the draft Consolidated Text, governments are urged to “...make every effort to arrive at a mutually satisfactory resolution...”, “...by any technological means available agreed by the consulting Parties...”, “...on the basis of objectivity, reliability and sound judgment...”, “...provided that the disputed Parties so agree...”, “...take measures to prevent...”, “...shall make best efforts...”, “...exercise restraint in taking recourse...”, “...in recognition of the importance...”, “...each Party retains the right to make decisions...”, “...adopt or maintain appropriate measures...”.
A selection of other favourite words in the draft include: “enhance” (12), “consider” (12), “encourage” (11), “address” (10), “endeavour” (9) and “seek” (9).
The Environment Chapter clearly shows the intention to first and foremost protect trade, not the environment. The principle is spelled out in this draft that local environmental laws are not to obstruct trade or investment between the countries. Furthermore, there is great emphasis on the self-regulatory principle when it comes to environmental protection, and emphasis on “...flexible, voluntary mechanisms, such as voluntary auditing and reporting, market-based incentives, voluntary sharing of information and expertise and public-private partnership”. But even such measures should be designed in a manner that “...avoids the creation of unnecessary barriers to trade”.
The Consolidated Text of the Environment Chapter of the TPP Agreement was drafted by Canadian officials after bilateral consultations with other TPP Parties. It is dated November 24, 2013, the last day of the TPP Chief Negotiators' summit in Salt Lake City, Utah. It outlines what the Chairs of the TPP Environment Working Group evaluate as a compromise of the Parties' different positions across issues. In a separate four-page document the Chairs of the Environment Working Group outline the main obstacles to agreement between the negotiating countries.
It is noteworthy in the assessment by the Chairs that the US government is isolated in its interest in placing enforcing mechanisms into the treaty to protect the environment. Without access to the negotiating table, it is hard to assess if the US representatives fought for this principle with the same vigour as they did for policing and enforcement on behalf of intellectual property interests, as can be seen in the leaked IP Chapter.
The TPP negotiations have been shrouded in secrecy during the three years the treaty has been in the making. The United States, as the largest of the 12 economies party to the negotiations, had originally pushed for the closure of the agreement before the end of 2013. According to recent reports quoting Andrew Robb, the Australian trade minister, the negotiations are in the final stages and the treaty is “ready to be sealed”.
The Obama administration wants to fast-track the TPP treaty through the US Congress, preventing Congress from amending or discussing any part of it. A bill to this effect was released last Thursday, 9 January, by the leaders of the Congressional committees with jurisdiction over US free trade agreements.
With the WikiLeaks release of the drafts of two of the most controversial chapters of the TPP, the media has now an opportunity to critically dissect the issues with the public interest in mind.
The TPP negotiations have wider implications than for the 800 million people in the 12 negotiating countries because the US administration, the dominant Party at the table, has declared that the principles outlined in the TPP will be a benchmark in the equally secretive US-EU trade talks for the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) initiated in January 2013.
Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei.