Risky Business

Thom Hartmann–who popularized the phrase SHAFTA (Southern Hemisphere/Asian Free Trade Agreement) to describe the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership–recently encouraged listeners who live in Republican House districts to call their representatives and tell them that they don’t wan’t “Obamatrade.” I’m surprised conservative critics of the TPP didn’t beat Hartmann to the punch on that one.

Of course, climate hawks should be the most concerned about what would happen if the House failed to slow the bipartisan rush towards this highly questionable trade deal. As Alisa Opar suggests, a provision in the TPP could theoretically be used to kill carbon-pricing efforts:

The greatest tool that the TPP gives foreign corporations is a provision “buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft,” as Senator Elizabeth Warren puts it. This is the “investor state dispute settlement” (ISDS), which grants multinationals the power to sue any government that interferes with their business. Yep, if some pesky regulation in a TPP country is hurting a corporation’s bottom line, it can sue for “millions to billions of dollars,” says Jake Schmidt, director of NRDC’s international program. This has happened in other agreements with similar language, Schmidt says. He points out that nearly 500 ISDS cases have been brought, including a Swedish company that sued Germany because it decided to phase out nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and a Delaware-based oil and gas company, Lone Pine Resources, which is suing the Canadian government under NAFTA for more than $250 million because Quebec placed a moratorium on fracking.

I would hate to see the hard work of those who have been striving for years to get Congress to put a price on carbon flushed down by the toilet by an asinine trade agreement that would allow Koch Industries to successfully pursue legal action to nullify carbon-pricing initiatives, despite evidence that such initiatives benefit our economy. If the TPP is implemented, carbon polluters will launch an all-out assault on any effort to protect our climate and the lives of future generations. Thus, in order to prevent catastrophic global warming, the TPP needs to be stopped cold.

UPDATE: Good to see that former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who announced his presidential bid yesterday, opposes TPP, as does Senator Bernie Sanders. What about the other major Democratic presidential candidate? This 2013 profile of O’Malley by Haley Edwards is a must-read.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.