Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement may threaten Environmental Regulation and Labour Standards

Completion of the Trans Pacific Partnership was announced on October 5th 2015, though the text will only be revealed to the Canadian public when it is debated in the new Parliament. Although environmentalists take comfort in some concessions regarding wildlife protection, the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis says “Trans-Pacific Partnership a big win for Corporate Interests” (Oct. 5) especially because of the investor protection rules (ISDS). The Council of Canadians furthers the CCPA discussion in “ISDS and the Paris Climate Agreement”, as does a detailed paper by Gus Van Harten of Osgoode Hall Law School in An ISDS Carve-out to Support Action on Climate Change, which aims to “identify language for an ISDS carve-out that is reliable and clear considering the importance of climate change action”. As Maude Barlow states in the introduction to the Van Harten paper: the ISDS “gives foreign corporations the right to directly sue governments for financial compensation if those governments introduce new laws or practices – be they environmental, health or human rights – that negatively affect corporations’ bottom line”.  Another paper released by the Centre for International Governance (in Waterloo, Ont.), Investor-State Arbitration Between Developed Democratic Countries is the first in a planned series reviewing and assessing ISDS from a global and legal perspective, without a focus on climate change aspects.

WikiLeaks Releases Environmental Chapter in the Transpacific Trade Talks, Labelling it a “Public Relations Exercise”

On January 15th, Wikileaks released the draft Environmental Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. The Chapter was written on Nov. 24, 2013, in advance of the December 10th Singapore meetings of the participant countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Wikileaks had this to say about the proposed environmental provisions of the trade deal: “The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in ‘environmental’ goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise.” (see  http://wikileaks.org/tpp-enviro/pressrelease.html). Wikileaks also posted an analysis of the Environment Chapter from a New Zealand perspective, by Professor Jane Kelsey, at: http://wikileaks.org/tppa-environment-chapter.html.

In a blog by Stuart Trew of the Council of Canadians, the provisions in the TPP draft chapter are likened to the current environmental protections under NAFTA (see  http://www.canadians.org/blog/climate-change-safeguarded-tpp-environment-chapter). This is a point of view also expressed in a 2013 report by the Sierra Club, which reviewed all chapters of the TPP (see Raw Deal:How the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens our Climate at: http://sc.org/RawDealReport).

The more recent response to the leaked Environment chapter from the Sierra Club, in conjunction with Natural Resources Defence Council and the WWF, describes the dispute resolution process as a “vastly insufficient process” “…an unacceptable rollback of previous commitments and renders the obligations in this chapter virtually meaningless.” (see http://sc.org/TPPEnvironment). Even before the Wikileaks revelations, BlueGreen Alliance, like many others in the U.S., was protesting the attempt to “fast-track” the TPP approval process through the U.S. Congress; see http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/news/latest/bluegreen-alliance-statement-fast-track-bill-strips-transparency-restricts-democratic-process. The Council of Canadians is one of more than 30 organizations participating in a January 31 Intercontinental Day of Action against the TPP and Corporate Globalization. (see http://www.flushthetpp.org/inter-continental-day-of-action-against-the-tpp-corporate-globalization/).