Global trade deal threatens Paris climate goals, leaked documents show | Environment | The Guardian

Arthur Nelson, 20 September 2016

Controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) could make it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels as part of efforts to keep temperature rises to 1.5C

A far-reaching global trade deal being negotiated in secret could threaten the goals of the Paris climate deal by making it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels, a leak of the latest negotiating text shows.

The controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) aims to liberalise trade between the EU and 22 countries across the global services sector, which employs tens of millions in Europe alone.

But a new EU text seen by the Guardian would oblige signatories to work towards “energy neutrality” between renewable energy and fossil fuel power, although amendments proposed by the EU would exempt nuclear power from this rule.

The document, marked “limited distribution – for Tisa participants only”, would also force member states to legislate against “anti-competitive conduct” and “market distortions” in energy-related services. This is viewed by campaigners as code for state support for clean power sectors, such as wind and solar.

A right to regulate is explicitly mentioned in the paper, but governments would first have to prove the necessity for regulations that legally constrain multinationals.

The same clause was used in the World Trade Organisation’s Gatt and Gats treaties which entered into force in 1995, and led to 44 complaints by multinationals via their governments. Of these, 43 were upheld.

Susan Cohen Jehoram, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, told the Guardian: “We fear the same thing will happen with Tisa but on a much larger scale, when legislation is proposed to keep temperature rises to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels, as agreed at the Paris climate summit].

“If we want to reach that target, governments will need a toolbox of measures that can give incentives to cleaner energy. Tisa, like the proposed TTIP and Ceta trade agreements, would increase the power of multinationals to prevent governments taking desperately needed measures to decrease CO2 levels.”

The Paris climate agreement called for “making finance flows consistent with a pathway to low greenhouse gas emissions” but the deregulatory thrust of the negotiating text, which was obtained by Greenpeace Netherlands, seems to run counter to this.

Its energy annex says that the trade rules will apply to all legislative measures covering power generation services, “whether the energy source is renewable or non-renewable”.

It also contains a “standstill” clause freezing in perpetuity the high watermark of liberalisation in certain sectors, and a “ratchet” clause to stop countries reintroducing trade barriers that had been previously removed. Both mechanisms have been proposed by Australia.

Under their tenets, any government elected on a ticket of reversing the liberalisation of services contained in the treaty would thus be unable to do so, campaigners claim.

The UK’s shadow international trade and energy spokesman, Barry Gardiner, Labour MP, told the Guardian: “Whilst every effort should be made to promote business and trade, this must not be at the expense of the protection and enhancement of workers’ rights, environmental safeguards and the wider interests of the British people.”

While Brexit could prevent the UK from being bound by the planned trade treaty, any agreement allowing access to the EU’s single market would probably oblige it to follow the new rules.

Opposition to the proposed text from Theresa May’s government is thought unlikely. David Davis, the minister for Brexit, recently described the similar Ceta trade agreement with Canada as his preferred model for a trade arrangement with the EU.

Gardiner said: “The British people have voted to come out of the European Union to preserve the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, it cannot be right then that secret trade deals are currently being conducted entirely outside the scrutiny of national parliaments and law-makers.”

“The structure of such deals are like a lobster pot – once you have gone through and given power to the commercial interest it is no longer possible to recapture democratic control. What we do hear, through leaks and rumours, are terms which clearly prevent the ongoing capacity of governments to govern in the public interest.”

Before coming into effect though, any finalised Tisa text will most likely need to be approved by all EU member states – which currently includes the UK – and will also require approval from the European parliament.

Earlier this year, MEPs voted to back the deal, on the proviso that public services were excluded and that the deal legally secured the right to regulate at European, national and local authority level.

Parliament’s rapporteur, the former EU justice commisioner, Viviane Reding, has previously said that the assembly will “never consent” to any trade pact that diminished the EU’s right to regulate on climate, health and social laws.

Reding refused to comment on the leak but informed sources said that neither she nor the European parliament would consent to provisions which prevented public authorities from supporting renewables.

Reding, a conservative politician from Luxembourg, has also called on the Luxembourg government to demand an end to negotiations on the EU-US free trade deal known as TTIP, over the use of controversial secret investor courts, and threats to the environment and food safety.

Unlike TTIP, Tisa deals with the less tangible trade services sector that nonetheless constitutes more than half of the global economy, and could impact on an estimated 1.8 billion people.

As well as energy, any Tisa deal will apply to financial services, e-commerce, information and communications technology services, international maritime transport services, computer related services, postal and courier services, and government procurement of services.

A report by the UN conference on trade and development later this week is expected to say that mega-trade deals such as TTIP and Tisa are becoming increasingly politicised, and failing to provide a solution to the slowdown in global growth.

Source: Global trade deal threatens Paris climate goals, leaked documents show | Environment | The Guardian

BBC World Service – The Documentary, Company v Country

We investigate the booming and lucrative business of multinational companies suing governments. The strangely-named investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) system is built into thousands of treaties between… Read more..

via BBC World Service – The Documentary, Company v Country.

Russell Norman, New Zealand Green Party: “If you want to understand Investor State Disputes Settlement clauses in trade agreements, and how important they are, spend 26 minutes listening to this great BBC radio documentary. You will never regret it.”

Meet the Australian Company Suing El Salvador for the Right to Poison Its Water – FPIF

An obscure tribunal housed at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. will soon decide the fate of millions of people.

At issue is whether a government should be punished for refusing to let a foreign mining company operate because it wants to protect its main source of water.

The case pits El Salvador’s government against a Canadian gold-mining company that recently became part of a larger Australian-based corporation. When OceanaGold bought Pacific Rim last year, it identified the Salvadoran mining prospects as a key asset, even though gold prices have sunk by more than a third from their 2011 high of more than $1,900 an ounce.

The case’s implications are chilling. If the company wins, this small country will have to either let the company mine or pay hundreds of millions of dollars.

This summer, we returned to northern El Salvador. That’s where the Pacific Rim mining company started to dig its exploration wells about a decade ago.

via Meet the Company Suing El Salvador for the Right to Poison Its Water – FPIF.

Free Trade threatens custom land in the Pacific | Pacific Network on Globalisation

“Custom land is so central to life in the Pacific Islands that its importance cannot be overstated. Yet through the eyes of free trade agreements it is seen as a barrier to investment, something that needs to be challenged,” commented PANG Campaigner Adam Wolfenden.

The briefing paper outlines many of the common questions about free trade and what it means for custom land in the Pacific Islands.

“Previous attempts to privatise land in the Pacific have been meet with a strong refusal by Islanders. What we’re seeing now is free trade advocates using these agreements to secure control over the usage of the land, which can in effect mean that custom decisions about land use are undermined” added Mr Wolfenden.

“We’re seeing this in Vanuatu where its Trade in Services commitments at the World Trade Organization (WTO) mean the government’s ability to specifically support and nurture land use for Indigenous enterprise, such as local burree owners or other tourist accommodation, can only happen if it gives the same support to foreign investors” continued Mr Wolfenden.

via Free Trade threatens custom land in the Pacific | Pacific Network on Globalisation.

transatlantic trade agreement & toxic chemicals

Posted Jun. 21, 2013 / Posted by: Bill Waren

On July 8, in Washington, D.C., trade negotiators from the United States and the European Union are expected to open the first round of talks for a Trans Atlantic free trade agreement TAFTA or as it is formally known, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP.  The United States is pushing for a transatlantic deal that not only integrates the trade policies of the U.S. and E.U., but also deregulates their economies.Because tariffs are already relatively low between the U.S. and Europe, TAFTA negotiations will instead focus on regulatory “barriers” to transatlantic trade and investment.[i] This may result in dangerous deregulation of environmental and public health safeguards – including those related to toxic chemicals, and will likely have a chilling effect on any future efforts to enact similar protections. Specifically, the E.U.’s more precautionary approach to chemicals management system should not be “harmonized down” to low U.S. standards.

via Updates: news releases and updates.