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With a little over two months since the Paris climate accord, much focus has been on international trade agreements and the mechanisms being used by corporations and governments that are undermining climate action. Real World Radio has interviewed Bill Waren, Senior Trade Analyst at Friends of the Earth in the United States, to discuss the trade agreement provisions that are blocking attempts to address global warming and the transition from a carbon economy into a green economy.
In January 2015, the Canadian energy company, TransCanada, announced its plan to sue the US government for more than $15 billion after the Obama administration rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. According to Waren, this was made possible due to the criteria for the investment suit under the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Similar to other US-EU agreements, they contain very broad and vague legal standards, such as the ‘fair and equitable treatment’ standard that gives corporate lawyers in the investment tribunals the freedom to make a subjective value judgement on whether they like or dislike a disputed policy. Subject to arbitrator bias, Waren holds that it is dangerous as its essentially ‘a wide-open door.’
In terms of the TTP and the TTIP agreements, Waren claims that it ‘makes a mockery of the [US] President’s commitments in Paris on climate change,’ and is in fact worse than the NAFTA that led to the TransCanada lawsuit. The provisions on contract enforcement within the investment chapters and the Trade Facilitation Enforcement Act (also known as the Customs Bill) has blocked climate change language in future agreements in order to appeal to republicans in congress. According to Waren, “the republicans included language in the bill that amended the so called ‘fast track legislation’ that was passed earlier in order to make it clear that under no circumstances were the US negotiators in future agreements to add any section of a positive action for climate change.”
In other reports of international trade agreements subverting climate action, the World Trade Organisation tribunal has ruled against India’s solar programme following a lawsuit by the US. The government of India had launched a major solar energy programme and included local purchasing preferences to create and expand a solar industry in the sub-continent. According to Waren, ‘these were mild provisions to help create incentive through government-contracting for the creation of a local industry, which is necessary to move countries from a carbon economy to a green economy.’ The WTO ruled in favour of the US, claiming that it violated international trade law.
In regards to existing trade and investment agreements, Waren holds the TTIP and TTP agreements need to be stopped as they are only getting worse. What can be gathered by the aforementioned cases is that ‘the investment chapters, the abuse by investment tribunals, and many other included provisions are undermining any attempt to deal with global warming.’
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