House Dems push for strong environmental chapter in Asia-Pacific trade deal

A majority of House Democrats are calling on the White House to ensure strong, enforceable environmental rules in an Asia-Pacific trade deal.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) and Peter DeFazio (Ore.), ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, along with 120 other members of the House, sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Thursday, urging him to continue to push for a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

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"TPP must include new and robust commitments for member countries to protect and conserve forests, oceans, and wildlife and obligate member countries to comply with both domestic environmental laws, not derogating from those laws, and meet their commitments under multilateral environmental agreements," the lawmakers wrote.

"These commitments must be strong, binding and enforceable, and subject to the same dispute settlement procedures as the commercial chapters, including recourse to trade sanctions."

The lawmakers expressed concern about recently leaked documents that show other countries involved in the 12-nation TPP pressing the United States to weaken environmental protections.

They say that while they don’t agree on all the merits of TPP, they urge Froman to push back against any potential weakening of those standards.

The lawmakers said they appreciated Froman’s response that the United States will “insist on a robust, full enforceable environment chapter in the TPP or we will not come to an agreement."

"If done correctly, this will be about more than just conservation," Blumenauer said.  

"It will enable the U.S. to undercut the black market in illegally sourced plants and wildlife, while at the same time leveling the playing field for US companies consistently placed at a disadvantage because of poor or unevenly enforced environmental laws in other TPP countries."

DeFazio argued that if TPP is a high-standard, modern agreement, then "we must deal with global environmental problems such as illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching, illegal fishing, shark finning, and illegal logging."

"TPP should not reward trading partners that undermine our international environmental agreements and have weak environmental and labor standards."

Besides the United States, the TPP involves Singapore, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Mexico, Chile and Peru.