Newspaper article International New York Times

Broad Accord Reached on Environment in Trade Talks ; A Contentious Chapter Ends in Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Newspaper article International New York Times

Broad Accord Reached on Environment in Trade Talks ; A Contentious Chapter Ends in Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Article excerpt

Trade negotiators for the Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed on broad protections for some of the most threatened ecosystems on earth.

Trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific nations reached agreement late Thursday on broad environmental protections for some of the most sensitive, diverse and threatened ecosystems on earth, closing one of the most contentious chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

As negotiators struggled to complete the largest regional trade agreement ever, they pointed to the environmental accord as a clear achievement. It will be controversial. Some environmental groups such as the Sierra Club insist that it lacks the binding enforcement measures that the Obama administration promised when talks began.

But other environmental groups are on board. Negotiators say that because of its breadth, the document -- covering illegal wildlife trafficking, forestry management, overfishing and marine protection - - could prove to be a landmark, setting a new floor for all future multilateral accords.

The 12 countries "cover environmentally sensitive regions from tundra to island ecosystems, and from the world's largest coral reefs to its largest rain forest," according to a summary of the environment chapter, obtained by The New York Times. It said that the document "addresses these challenges in detail."

The completion of the environmental chapter put aside one thorny issue for a trade deal that has been in the works for eight years. But negotiators hoping to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Friday still had big gaps to bridge as they worked into the night on Thursday. Those included how many years to protect new pharmaceuticals from competition, fights over access to Canada's dairy market and to America's sugar market, and barriers to the Japanese auto market.

If the accord is completed, it will rope together 40 percent of the global economy under an expansive set of commercial rules governing intellectual property, labor and environmental standards, market access for exports and protections for international investors.

Under the agreement, the 12 countries -- encompassing places like the Peruvian rain forest and the diverse Mekong Delta in Vietnam -- must commit to obeying existing wildlife trafficking treaties and their own environmental laws. Environmentally destructive subsidies, such as cheap fuel to power illegal fishing vessels and governmental assistance for boat making in overfished waters, are banned.

The chapter singles out the "long-term conservation of species at risk," such as sea turtles, sea birds and marine mammals and "iconic marine species such as whales and sharks."

The effects of the environmental agreement could be broad, both for the nations in the deal and those outside. The 12 countries account for more than a quarter of the global seafood trade and about a quarter of the world's timber and pulp production. …

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