The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) And The Environment

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the largest trade agreement of all time for Australians, and as such presents a number of benefits and challenges not just to us but also to the 12 nations involved. Representing 40% of trade in the global market the countries involved Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam will remove 98% of trade tariffs between them.

However a number of analysts and specialists have spoken out regarding provisions contained therein, and rather than read through 30 chapters of legal speak, we thought we would go ahead and analyse their thoughts on your behalf and talk about some aspects of what is contained in the TPP.

We will also be relying on what experts have said in relation to the TPP in order to expound a very balanced view of the situation.

Intellectual property law professor at Queensland University of Technology, Matthew Rimmer has said the chapter on environmental regulations is lacking detail.

“It seems to me remarkable that the environmental chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership doesn’t even mention the phrase climate change. It’s kind of like Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, it’s a taboo phrase in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Australia’s trade minister Andrew Robb retorted that the TPP does not need to address climate change as it is in fact a trade agreement.

“This is not a climate change policy. It’s not an agreement to do with climate change, it’s a trade agreement.”

Many people however question this kind of sentiment. Should we actually be tying environmental protection and climate change to our industrial and business needs? From the perspective of this writer it’s been made clear that without enforcing environmental protections in a robust manner alongside industry it just seems that environmental needs are ignored in favour of profits. What do you think?

Another concern is being presented in the form of ISDS provisions, or Investor-State Dispute Settlements. This allows foreign investors, i.e. businesses, to sue foreign governments if legislation is introduced which can harm their potential future profits.

Think about that for a second, a foreign company can sue the Australian government if laws are introduced which could harm their bottom line. It seems pretty crazy, however it has happened in the past and is happening currently. In fact due to a prior ISDS provision introduced in a treaty between Australia and Hong Kong, the tobacco company Phillip Morris is currently suing the Australian government for a sum which some have estimated to be in the billions. We would like to highlight the fact that this is completely legal at this stage and will now apply on a much broader scale.

How does this affect the environment though? Tobacco packaging is a separate issue.

Well we’d be interested to know what you think of this as a case study. Though this didn’t take place under the TPP, the provisions seem to be similar at this time.

A claim was brought about by an American resources company against a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in Quebec, Canada.

When that moratorium was announced in 2011, the Lone Pine Resources Company had acquired a permit to extract gas from beneath the St Lawrence River.

When the permit was revoked, it was claimed the Quebec government was breaching the ISDS provision in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Canadian government is now being sued for around $US230 million for that case alone.

There are currently 8 cases outstanding against the Canadian government with damages claimed at somewhere around the 6 billion mark.

Do we think it’s a good idea that Australia is open to this kind of system, where private tribunals can effectively decide outcomes against Australian legislation?

It seems like our sovereign rights as a country are being encroached upon from where we are sitting, but as with any legal speak it’s open for interpretation. We’re very open to hearing any feedback from both sides of the community regarding the TPP and hope to bring more updates and opinions to you as they come to light.