Dirty Secrets: Trade Promotion Authority and the TransPacific Partnership

Upcoming trade legislation is poised to wash away our human and environmental rights around the globe! Oregon contributes dynamically to international markets – producing technology, wine and agriculture, and manufactured goods for export. It is imperative that we improve and maintain these good-paying jobs which support our local economy and utilize higher environmental standards rather than trade them away to corporate profits and lower human and environmental rights. Help pressure our congressional representatives to oppose this dangerous and damaging legislation. Click here to take action! Keep reading for more info.

Fast Track, often referred to as Trade Promotion Authority, is a piece of legislation that acts as a structure for trade legislation to be sent pre-signed by the president to Congress for a strict up-or-down vote. No edits or amendments, and limited discussion on the floor. This becomes exceptionally dangerous when applied to agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free trade agreement between twelve countries around the Pacific Rim and comprising 29 chapters on topics including the environment, labor, investment, internet freedom, and increased energy exports, to name a few.

The Sierra Club, along with dozens of environmental, labor, and food safety organizations are deeply concerned about Fast Track, as it removes the important checks and balances system of our elected officials, and places near complete power in the hands of the executive branch, the U.S. Trade Representative, and hundreds of corporate “trade advisors”.

The TPP contains a vast array of concerning chapters, including a step backwards with Multilateral Environmental Agreements – changing language that holds signatory countries accountable to “adopt, maintain, and implement” to now  “affirm its commitment” to the regulation, and relaxation in environmental enforcement, should a party be in violation of the agreement.

Environmental damage is incurred due to a variety of clauses, including:

1) Corporations would be allowed to sue governments in private tribunals over nearly any law they allege infringes on the value of their investment, (read Elizabeth Warren’s position here)

2) the US Dept. of Energy would be required to automatically approve exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to signatory countries (including Japan, the current leader in LNG imports), therefore encouraging increased fracking and dangerous transportation,

3) Regarding global fisheries, countries “shall seek to operate a fisheries management system…that is designed to prevent overfishing and overcapacity”, however there is no mention of fisheries by-catch nor any ban on shark finning – despite many of the signatory countries being traders of shark fins, and requirement under United States law to seek broader bans on such countries, and

4) TPP countries are significant exporters of plant and wildlife products, a trade that has lead to dramatic declines in biodiversity and endangered species. Unfortunately the TPP contains extremely weak wording regarding the enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

These are a few of the concerning portions of the TPP, issues that should be debated on the floor of congress and commented on by the public, not drafted behind closed doors in extreme secrecy. So – is there any hope? What can we do?

Yes – there is hope. In a group effort by the Sierra Club, Citizens Trade Campaign, and a host of environmental, health, and labor organizations we are pressuring Senator Wyden (ranking member of Senate Finance Committee), House Rep. Blumenauer, and House Rep. Bonamici to vote down Fast Track legislation and pursue responsible alternatives. And we’re making progress! Senator Wyden has delayed the introduction of Trade Promotion Authority, calling it “premature” – citing needs for increased transparency and accountability. We must keep encouraging Senator Wyden to delay agreement on this deal, and continue to work for improved environmental standards and labor regulations.

Please join us in making our voices heard – call, email, and write letters to our congressional representatives, stay tuned to the Oregon Chapter Facebook page and Twitter updates, and please reach out to stay updated on rallies and press events.

Morgan Gratz-Weiser
Community Outreach Coordinator – Oregon Chapter

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