Ways and Means Committee Democrats: Trading Views on TPP Environment Chapter

Thanks to Trade Promotion Authority, Members of Congress now have an opportunity to review and debate the final contents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Democratic Members of the Ways and Means Committee are taking full advantage by holding a series of forums. The first forum focused on the TPP’s Environment chapter. Experts and environmental organizations on both sides of the issue offered testimony, answered questions, and submitted statements digging into the deal’s details.

The World Wildlife Fund, a leading organization in wildlife conservation, submitted written testimony to the Committee, saying:

“No major trade agreement before the TPP has gone so far to address growing pressures on natural resources like overexploited fish, wildlife and forests. Significant conservation obligations require all TPP nations to:

  • Enforce the obligations of the environment chapter through the same mechanisms as the commercial obligations, including the ability to bring sanctions.Effectively enforce their environmental laws.Take measures to combat, and cooperate to prevent, the trade of illegal wild flora and fauna that is taken or traded illegally. Such measures must be an effective deterrent to such trade.Adopt, maintain and implement laws, regulations, and any other measures to fulfill obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • Seek to operate fisheries management systems that are designed to prevent overfishing and capacity, reduce bycatch of non-target species and juveniles, and promote the recovery of overfished stocks for all marine species in which that Party’s persons conduct fishing activities.
  • Promote long term conservation of sharks, marine turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals through the implementation of effective enforcement of conservation and management measures.
  • Combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices, including deterring trade in products resulting from IUU practices, by implementing port state measures; and act consistently with relevant conservation and management measures, including catch or trade documentation schemes, adopted by the Regional Management Organizations of which a Party is not a member so as not to undermine those measures.
  • Eliminate fishing subsidies that negatively affect fish stocks that are in an overfished condition and subsidies provided to IUU fishing vessels…

With rigorous implementation, the conservation obligations of the TPP could be helpful tools in addressing conservation challenges in the Asia-Pacific region.”

In addition to WWF’s written testimony, experts attended the forum to offer oral testimony and answer questions. Dr. Joshua P. Meltzer, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute in the Global Economy and Development program, said:

“The TPP environment chapter is a good chapter that warrants support… It is also the case when assessing the TPP environment chapter to keep in mind the living nature of this agreement. This is not an empty platitude. The TPP includes a range of mechanisms such as mandated reviews, regular meetings of officials and commitments by each TPP government to transparency in their regulatory making process. This provides a range of opportunities to shape behavior and outcomes over time. The underlying point being that when considering TPP environment chapter, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The U.S. is clearly better off with the TPP environment than without it."

Dr. Meltzer responded to specific criticism that the TPP doesn’t include certain elements of previous trade deals, saying:

“Regarding specific elements of the TPP environment chapter, there is some concern that the TPP does not fully reflect that part of the May 10th Bipartisan agreement which require FTA parties to “adopt, maintain and implement” a list of seven MEAs. 2 Yet, for many of the environmental issues addressed in these MEAs, the TPP often goes further.”

The Ways and Means Committee also invited Dr. Rashid Sumaila, Professor at the University of British Columbia in the Fisheries Economics Unit, to speak on the TPP’s impact on ocean sustainability. Dr. Sumaila said:

We see for first time a group of countries that put together provisions regarding harmful fishing subsidies that can get things moving. But enforcement and capacity building will be important to the plan’s success.

You can watch the full forum and Dr. Sumaila’s testimony or read the testimony from WWF and Dr. Meltzer here.