White House argues trade will help environment

The White House on Wednesday released a report detailing its efforts to protect the global environment through trade agreements as President Obama tries to build support on Capitol Hill for his ambitious agenda. 

The 64-page report is the latest in a series of attempts by the Obama administration to describe how far-reaching trade agreements can improve the enforcement of global rules, a major concern of congressional lawmakers wary of signing off on the trade agenda. 

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Specifically, it argues that trade pacts can combat a broad range of global environmental concerns including wildlife trafficking and illegal logging and fishing.

The Obama administration argues that once implemented, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “will help protect one of the most ecologically and economically significant regions of the world — from the deserts and plains of Australia, to the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam, to the Andes mountains of Peru." 

The White House says it is “leading the charge to shape an international response to the global environmental challenges we face” and the TPP would accomplish those objectives. 

The administration argues that TPP would “provide unprecedented leverage to press for improved environmental standards.” 

The report cites environmental groups (the World Wildlife Fund, the Humane Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare and The Nature Conservancy) who say that trade agreements can result in “real change on the ground.” 

Other groups, such as the Sierra Club, argue that the TPP could sabotage the ability of the United States to respond to the climate crisis.

“Multinational corporations, including some of the planet's biggest polluters, could use the TPP to sue governments in private trade tribunals, over laws and policies that they claimed would reduce their profits,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune wrote in a recent blog post. 

Brune said other trade deals have allowed corporations to challenge rules aimed at protecting the environment, including a pollution cleanup in Peru, which is part of the 12-nation TPP. 

The U.S. Trade Representative acknowledged that more work needs to be done in Peru — an oft-cited country by groups and lawmakers concerned about TPP's standards. 

“We are working with Peru to understand the impacts of the reforms on the environment, including through active engagement with the stakeholder communities in both countries,” the report said.