US Trade Rep can't figure out if Trans-Pacific Partnership will protect the environment

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a secretly negotiated trade agreement let by the USA. Though the text is secret, enough drafts have leaked to make it clear that one of its goals is to ensure that foreign corporations can sue governments over laws that impact their profits, especially when it comes to the environment.

The US Trade Representative and the Obama administration have asked Congress to "fast track" the treaty, passing it without any debate or revisions. Naturally, Congress wants to know what the treaty is likely to say before they agree to this.

So in a hearing on Jan 28, Rep Mark Pocan (D-WI) asked Michael Froman -- the US Trade Rep running the TPP show -- about the environmental standards in TPP. Froman listed four areas in TPP that were "absolutely non-negotiable from a US standpoint," including "tough new environmental standards."

When the meeting ended, Pocan asked "So does that mean that if we give you fast track, you won't send us a deal that doesn't have that stuff in it?' At which point, we learned that the US Trade Rep uses a highly specialized meaning for the phrase "absolutely non-negotiable," meaning "totally up for grabs," because he immediately said, "I didn't say that."

But after repeatedly insisting that the final TPP pact would require all countries to abide by tough new environmental standards, attendees said Froman changed his tune at the end of the meeting.

"Ambassador Froman was asked on I think it was four different areas, and each time he said it was absolutely non-negotiable from a U.S. standpoint," Pocan told The Huffington Post. "So then at the end, I listed those four areas to make sure I had the U.S. position right. And he said again it was non-negotiable. And then right after that, Lloyd Doggett got up and said, 'So does that mean that if we give you fast track, you won't send us a deal that doesn't have that stuff in it?' And right off the bat, the answer was, 'I didn't say that.' And to me, non-negotiable is, you know, non-negotiable."

Doggett declined to comment for this article.

Here's Why Democrats Don't Trust Obama On Trade [Zach Carter/Huffpo]

(via Techdirt)

(Image: No Means No!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from danielsouzaluz's photostream)