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Remarks by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis on Conservation Initiatives in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Ambassador Demetrios Marantis
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative

Conservation Initiatives in the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Washington, DC
December 5, 2011

*As Prepared For Delivery*

“Just more than ten years ago, the World Trade Organization’s ministerial meeting in Seattle became the flashpoint for a boiling-over of public concern about trade’s impact on the world’s people and on the planet. Aside from the shattered glass and tear gas, among the more memorable snapshots from those meetings was the more peaceful marching of dozens of environmental activists in a menagerie of animal costumes. They were calling for greener trade policies and expressed concern that trade rules were thwarting efforts to protect wildlife species and fragile ecosystems around the globe.

“Today, although marchers still take to the streets over trade, we have come a long way since Seattle, and since the shrimp-turtle wars ignited at the intersection of trade and environment interests. But frequently, I’m still asked: Does the Obama Administration take into account environmental concerns in its trade policies. How? Are U.S. trade policies and efforts to double U.S. exports any more compatible with protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources? The simple answer to this is ‘yes’ – more so every day.

“For many years, the static perception has been that trade agreements threaten the environment, period. But in truth, there has been tremendous progress in integrating environmental considerations into U.S. trade policies. And in this regard, the Obama Administration is carrying the banner forward boldly. Today, we are on the brink of a new turning point on trade and environment. Trade agreements are part of the solution to pressing international environmental challenges. In a world more interconnected than ever before, we see trade’s potential to drive both higher standards of environmental protection and cooperative efforts to conserve living resources.

“President Obama understands the seriousness of the message broadcast through bullhorns and placards back in Seattle, and still advanced by environmental thought leaders here in Washington and around the world today. And so he insists that we must pursue our trade negotiations, and the economic growth opportunities they offer, with sensitivity to environmental implications. We must develop and implement a better understanding of how trade agreements can advance environmental protection.

“That is why we are building on past progress and assimilating environmental priorities more directly and aggressively into our trade policies. We are translating our greater understanding of the trade and environment nexus into a set of policy goals – and we are incorporating those goals into the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, or ‘TPP.’

“Let me set the stage briefly on TPP. This Administration considers TPP the ideal forum for advancing innovative objectives in the trading context. With TPP, we aim to create a platform for regional economic integration across the Asia-Pacific, boosting U.S. economic growth and supporting high-quality jobs at home. We will do this by increasing American exports to a region that includes some of the world’s most robust economies. The Asia-Pacific represents more than 40 percent of global trade and is home to 41 percent of the world’s population. We are starting with an initial group of nine like-minded countries – the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam and hope to eventually expand this group to countries across the Asia-Pacific region.

“Last month, at the APEC Leaders meeting in Honolulu, the TPP Leaders announced that we have reached the broad outlines of a high-standard, 21st-century agreement, and made the conclusion of the TPP a priority. They also welcomed the interest of several other countries in joining the negotiation, making the TPP the biggest game in town in just a year and a half of negotiation.

“We have high aspirations for the TPP. We are seeking ambitious commitments on cross-cutting issues included for the first time in a trade agreement, such as regulatory coherence, supply chains and competitiveness, and small- and medium-sized enterprises. We also want concrete steps to topple behind-the-border trade barriers. And we have tabled new, innovative approaches on current challenges such as the behavior of state-owned enterprises and ‘indigenous innovation’ measures that disadvantage U.S. technology.

“Environmental challenges are not new in trade. But dynamic new solutions are possible on this old point of contention. We have asked ourselves, and others: how might the TPP incorporate priorities on environment that have not been included in previous trade agreements? We have input on TPP from many of you here in this room, and have consulted closely with Congress as well. Our goal is to develop strong commitments that reflect our priorities on both trade and the environment.

“We are building on an increasingly strong foundation. Our recent FTA with Peru and the Colombia, Korea, and Panama agreements just passed by Congress already include strong environmental provisions. Among these are obligations to effectively enforce environmental laws, not to derogate from those laws in order to increase trade or investment, and to put in place laws and regulations to implement certain multilateral environmental agreements, such as CITES – the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. Importantly, each of these obligations are subject to the same dispute settlement provisions that apply to other chapters, such as intellectual property rights.

“Our aspirations for TPP also spring from vital and successful work in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. As part of the U.S. host year for APEC, President Obama insisted on an ambitious result for lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services across the region – and we got one. In Honolulu last month, all 21 APEC economies made a commitment to reduce applied tariffs on environmental goods to five percent or less by 2015. They also agreed to eliminate non-tariff barriers such as local content requirements.

“In the TPP, we are seeking to go even further. We believe all nine countries, and other eventual partners, can agree to eliminate all tariffs on environmental goods.

“Similarly, we are building on the agreement of APEC Leaders last month to take actions to prohibit trade in illegally-harvested forest products.

“Perhaps the most groundbreaking element of our proposal for TPP on environment is the inclusion of a ‘conservation framework’ in the TPP environment chapter. This framework would require TPP parties to act to inhibit illegal trade in wildlife and wild plant products.

“That wonky-sounding phrase obscures activities that responsibly, we should all work together to stop. Whether it involves forest products manufactured from illegally harvested tropical timber, or body parts from threatened tiger species, or fins brutally torn from sharks at sea, more can be done to fight illegal trafficking in wildlife and wild plant products and to better protect these resources across the region.

“The TPP countries already represent some of the richest, most biologically diverse areas of the Asia-Pacific. But this diversity in TPP countries and others in the region is at risk.

“Peru is the third most bio-diverse country in the world. But 560 of its species are threatened – 45 critically endangered. Many of New Zealand’s species are unique to that country and also under threat, such as the Kakapo – a large, flightless, nocturnal parrot. Chile is home to 151 threatened species, including the Chinchilla and Darwin’s Fox.

“In October, only days after the last TPP round of negotiations in Lima, the WWF and the International Rhino Federation announced that the Javan Rhinoceros is now extinct in Vietnam. This was the last surviving animal in the same group of species as the extinct woolly mammoth. For conservation groups worldwide, this announcement was met with sadness and frustration, as many efforts had been made in the past to protect the species from illegal poaching.

“Clearly, it’s time to look for even more solutions for threatened species – and rhinos offer a particular example. Reports indicate that rhinos are struggling to survive in nearly all of their native habitats – and that there are near-daily reports that rhinos in Africa are also being illegally poached, with their horns traded into the Asia-Pacific region to meet a market demand for perceived medicinal benefits.

The impact on wildlife and our fragile ecosystems from illegal environmental trade is clear, and tragic. But unfortunately, it pays those who engage in it.

“Across the globe, international trade in wildlife and wild plant species that have been illegally poached or harvested is valued at tens of billions of dollars. The same global criminal networks that deal in illegal narcotics and arms trade are active in trafficking in illegal wildlife products, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a year. The value of trade associated with illegal logging has been estimated to be as high as $6 billion a year alone.

“In marine fisheries, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing – so-called ‘IUU fishing’ -- ranges from $10 billion to $23.5 billion a year. This, along with capacity-enhancing subsidies, amounting to approximately 25 percent of the value of global total catch, have contributed to the decimation of fisheries stocks. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization determined last year that 80 percent of global marine fisheries stocks are in dire straits.

“Taking steps to stop this lucrative criminal activity, so damaging to the planet, is an imperative.

Many TPP partners are already are working hard to better protect wildlife and wild plant resources that are heavily traded. We have worked closely with New Zealand, Australia, Peru, and Chile to seek strong disciplines in the WTO on fisheries subsidies. Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam are all members of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network – or ‘ASEAN WEN’ – through which they share information on illegal trafficking of wildlife species and cooperate in enforcement activities.

“We believe the TPP can and should strengthen these efforts. TPP has the potential to change the course of international engagement to address these challenges. As we build a more economically-integrated Asia-Pacific community of nations, we can also construct a new community to conserve our wildlife, marine and forest resources and prevent illegal trade in these products.

“The United States’ proposal in the TPP environment negotiations seeks to directly confront the types of illegal activities and marine subsidy practices that have been shown over and over again to be harmful to resource conservation and sustainable economic development and growth.

“For the ‘conservation framework’ in the TPP agreement, we have proposed strong disciplines to ensure that each TPP country has measures in place to deter illegal trade into and out of its territory, whether or not the product originated in another TPP country. We have combined this with cooperative approaches to enhance information-sharing and law enforcement assistance among TPP countries. We also have proposed mechanisms to increase engagement between governments and stakeholders, who often have critical expertise in identifying risks to threatened species.

“Beyond this framework, we have put forward more specific disciplines and cooperative approaches in three distinct areas: (i) wildlife species of special concern; (ii) marine fisheries; and (iii) forest ecosystems and trade in timber species. In particular, these include a series of strong obligations on marine fisheries subsidies and measures to deter IUU fishing. New Zealand has also made a proposal on marine fisheries, and we are working to integrate those ideas.

“I am exceedingly proud of the ‘green paper’ that USTR is releasing today. (It’s so good, we couldn’t call it a white paper.) It provides more details on these proposals for a TPP conservation framework. It will show how the United States is ready to go farther than ever before in comprehensively confronting the problem of illegal trade in wildlife and wild plant products. And we believe that we have the right partners to move this issue forward.

“I began my remarks by referencing the concerns of many, past and present, as to whether trade and environment policies can ever be compatible. In fact, I am convinced that the TPP is a truly unique opportunity – perhaps the best we’ve ever had in international trade negotiations – to finally show that trade and environment policies can be compatible, but that the world is better off both economically and environmentally when they are. Increased trade and the economic growth it can bring, can become a starting point – not a sticking point – for innovative environmental policy.

“I look forward to our negotiations on these proposals. With our partners, the United States will seek to steer this trade agreement towards a result that will promise fundamental reversals in activities that threaten wildlife conservation, contribute to deforestation and degrade our global commons. Because we believe that working together, trading partners can protect our precious environmental resources for the health of our people today, and for the benefit of future generations.”