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  • Additional Views of Humane Society International

    Additional Views of Humane Society International
    Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Council Report: U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement
    April 25, 2007

    Humane Society International (HSI) would like to submit the following additional views regarding the U.S. Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (Panama TPA or Agreement). These comments are intended to be included as an addendum to the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC) report on the Agreement.

    HSI joins in the unanimous conclusion of TEPAC Members to stress that 30 days is an insufficient period of time for Members of the Committee to thoroughly review, analyze, and provide opinions on free trade agreements (FTA). In the case of the Panama TPA, the final text negotiated by the Administration has been available for some time. Recent elections, however, caused a shift of power in Congress and the newly-elected majority has indicated through numerous press reports that they are seeking the addition of language that further protects the environment to all FTA texts before they will allow a vote on these agreements. This situation has left TEPAC Members in a precarious situation unable to determine exactly what the final text of the Panama TPA will entail, while at the same time facing a congressionally mandated deadline to submit a report within 30 days of the Presidents notification to Congress that he intends to sign the Agreement. For this reason, HSI would like to make clear that the conclusions expressed throughout this submission are based solely on text of the Panama TPA as of the date the TEPAC report is presented to Congress. HSI, therefore, reserves the right to modify opinions presented in this submission if the text of the Agreement were to change due to the Administrations ongoing negotiations with Congress. As a result of the current circumstances, HSI joins the majority of TEPAC Members who are expressing their increasing frustration concerning the limited time frame provided to perform the complex task of creating a report, particularly given the divergent viewpoints of TEPAC Members. The current statutory scheme neither provides an adequate period of time to perform this review, nor is it flexible enough to deal with the current political environment.

    Based on the text of the Panama TPA as of this date, HSI agrees with the majority of TEPAC members in supporting the conclusion that the Agreement provides adequate safeguards to ensure that Congresss environmental negotiating objectives will be met. In particular, HSI applauds the inclusion of the requirement that both Parties effectively enforce their domestic environmental laws, including those that implement commitments under Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA), as well as the trade capacity building provisions and the robust public
    participation provisions similar to those found in the Dominican Republic Central America, Colombia and Peru Agreements. HSI strongly believes that the inclusion
    of an effective enforcement framework supported by robust public participation and trade capacity building provisions will significantly increase the likelihood that the Agreements environmental provisions will be fully and effectively implemented.

    While HSI does not believe that FTAs should be negotiated on a one size fits all basis, we are displeased with the fact that the current text of the Panama TPA does not include a biodiversity provision in the Environment Chapter. Such a provision was included in the recently negotiated Colombia and Peru TPAs, and would have been a welcome addition to the Panama TPA. By enshrining both Parties recognition of the importance of the conservation of biological diversity and its role in sustainable development (specifically that of plants, animals, and habitat), both the Colombia and Peru TPAs represented a substantial achievement in the Environment Chapters of free trade agreements. The failure to include this important provision in the Panama TPA is a substantial step backwards from these agreements and represents a missed opportunity for the United States to further its commitment to environmental protection in one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.

    The exclusion of a biodiversity provision is disappointing. However, other portions of the Environment Chapter remain strong and should the Panama TPA enter into force it is incumbent on the governments of both the United States and Panama to ensure that the Agreement does more than just put words on paper. Provisions contained in the Environment Chapter and those in the concurrently negotiated Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA) require long-term financial backing and support in order to achieve their desired result.

    Recognizing the importance of strengthening the capacity in each Party to protect the environment and promote sustainable development, the ECA provides a foundation for long-term cooperation and assistance on environmental issues, programs, and policies. Without a dedicated funding source appropriated by Congress, however, achievement of the goals of the ECA is at best ephemeral. For example, ensuring that the public submission mechanism works as intended including building the capacity of local organizations to participate effectively in the public submission process, strengthening the ability of Ministries to enforce environmental laws (including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), training of government officials on how to set up a national advisory committee system, and ensuring transparency and openness by communicating issues to civil society will all require a great deal of funding and technical assistance. Due to current budget constraints, however, all recently concluded FTAs without a dedicated funding source will be competing against each other for a limited and diminishing amount of foreign aid funds. In addition, it is too often the case that environmental projects are placed at the bottom of the priority list for funding.

    HSI is hopeful that the ECA accompanying the Panama TPA will provide a strong basis for ongoing environmental cooperation, and urges Congress to ensure that the ECA is adequately funded. While HSI is aware of the need to be fiscally responsible, environmental cooperation is an area where we can achieve a great deal of good and improve the life and health of people and animals in addition to increasing economic opportunities. HSI, therefore, recommends that Congress set aside a specific amount of funding for environmental cooperation with Panama as it did in the case of DR-CAFTA.

    HSI is concerned, however, that at present Panama may not be taking seriously the commitments expressed in the Agreement to effectively enforce domestic environmental laws (including those implementing obligations under MEAs) and to strive to continue to improve those laws and policies. In what could result in violations of both domestic law and its commitments under the Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW), Panama is considering granting permits to a private company seeking to build a dolphinarium in Panama and stock it with up to 80 locally captured wild bottlenose dolphins. HSI alerted USTR to this issue in a letter on April 5, 2007. USTR has since been in contact and assured HSI that it is investigating the situation. If the Government of Panama were to grant these permits before a scientifically based dolphin population assessment is completed, HSI believes that Panama would be in violation of its own domestic law protecting marine mammals and the SPAW protocol, thus, failing to demonstrate a commitment to effective enforcement of environmental laws. As noted above, HSI would like to make clear that the views expressed above are based on text of the Panama TPA as of the date of this submission. HSI, therefore, reserves the right to modify our opinion if the text of the Agreement is altered based onthe Administrations ongoing negotiations with Congress.

    HSI would like to thank the Chairperson of TEPAC for the opportunity to incorporate this submission as an addendum to the official TEPAC report for the Panama TPA.

    Global Justice for Animals and the Environment is a project of:
    Wetlands Activism Collective
    Phone: (718) 218-4523
    Fax: (501) 633-34761
    activism @ wetlands-preserve.org