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The United States and Environmental Protections in the TPP

The United States’ position on the environment in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is this: environmental stewardship is a core American value, and we will insist on a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the TPP or we will not come to agreement.

Our proposals in the TPP are centered around the enforcement of environmental laws, including those implementing multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) in TPP partner countries, and also around trailblazing, first-ever conservation proposals that will raise standards across the region. Furthermore, our proposals would enhance international cooperation and create new opportunities for public participation in environmental governance and enforcement.

We are glad to explain here how the United States is working to ensure that partners’ commitments under multilateral environmental agreements and other environmental laws and rules are enforced in the TPP.

The groundbreaking conservation and marine fisheries provisions proposed by the United States in the TPP talks – fully explained in our December 2011 “Green Paper” online – go beyond the multilateral agreements on fisheries management to which the United States and some of the other countries are already parties. We are proposing that the TPP include, for the first time in any trade or environment agreement, groundbreaking prohibitions on fish subsidies that set a new and higher baseline for fisheries protections.

Similarly, the broader U.S. proposals on conservation, also detailed in our Green Paper, would elevate other TPP countries’ commitments toward our own congressionally-set standards on issues such as the conservation of wildlife, forests, and protected areas.

Even as we push to raise the bar on environmental protections in new ways, we continue to insist that countries live up to commitments they’ve made in their own laws implementing their MEAs. These include but are not limited to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), the Montreal protocol which covers ozone-depleting substances, and the MARPOL agreement which governs marine pollution from ships. So the United States is standing firm on logging regulations, pollution control and other key issues where we’ve always led the way.

U.S. negotiators have made clear where we don’t agree with weaker TPP proposals on environmental provisions, and just how serious we are about making sure that the obligations in the environmental chapter are subject to the same enforcement processes as obligations elsewhere in the TPP, including recourse to trade sanctions.

It’s true that U.S. negotiators are fighting alone on some of these issues – but that’s exactly what they’re doing: pressing harder, not retreating.

In December the trade ministers of the 12 TPP countries met for three days to tackle tough issues together, including in the environment chapter. There, the United States reiterated our bedrock position on enforceability of the entire environment chapter, as well as our strong commitments to provisions such as those combating wildlife trafficking and illegal logging.

The entire TPP negotiation, including on the environmental chapter, is ongoing. We will continue to work with Congress and with our stakeholders in the environmental community, as we have from day one, for the strongest possible outcome. Together, we can continue to call on TPP partners to join us in achieving the high environmental standards being proposed and advocated by the United States.