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Enviros Plot Strategy To Weaken Bush

by Danielle Knight

Will make it harder for Bush to push through free trade agreements
(IPS) WASHINGTON -- After President George W. Bush's repudiation of the Kyoto Protocol accord on climate change, environmental groups are forming a united front against the administration's request for "fast-track" trade negotiating authority.

"The administration's rejection of the Kyoto accord on climate change cast legitimate doubts on the administration's ability to ensure that global environmental protections are integrated into our globalizing markets," said Fred Krupp, executive director of Environmental Defense, a Washington-based advocacy group.

The environmental movement has been split over support for trade liberalization. Environmental Defense has traditionally been supportive of free trade and in the early 1990s came out in support of NAFTA, in the process breaking ranks with allies like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth.

The Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialized nations to reduce their emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, is seen by many advocacy groups as one of the most important environmental treaties, however, and Krupp said Bush's withdrawal from the accord has sent an alarming signal.

"The Bush administration's continued unwillingness to build on this treaty and be a leader in solving global warming makes it impossible for Environmental Defense to support unfettered presidential authority on trade," said Krupp, who sits on the President's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations.

Other "green" groups that supported NAFTA have vowed to oppose granting Bush's wish to be able to cement trade pacts without fear of Congressional amendment. These include the National Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife.

Pietro Nivola, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think tank, said that having more environmental groups against fast-track will make Congressional passage of Bush's request even more difficult.

With Democrats outnumbering Republicans by 51-49 in the Senate, the debate on fast-track was already expected to be contentious and "any additional opposition certainly complicates the process," Nivola said.

Bush has been anxious to get fast-track powers and urged lawmakers during his first speech to Congress in February to grant them as soon as possible.

Campaigns for and against fast-track are going into high gear amid expectations that legislators will vote on Bush's request before leaving next month for their summer recess.

Representative Phillip Crane, a Republican from Illinois, has put forward a legislative proposal to grant Bush's wish. Crane, who chairs a key House of Representatives trade subcommittee, opposes attaching labor and environmental guidelines to trade matters.

In response, Representative Peter Stark of California has written to fellow Democrats urging them not to accept any fast-track proposal that does not adequately protect the environment and workers.

To press their case, businesses eager to see the administration pursue further market-opening initiatives have formed a new lobby group -- USTrade -- which includes such corporate giants as Boeing and Procter & Gamble.

"It isn't going to be easy," said Harold McGraw, chairman of the McGraw-Hill Co. "We're making sure we have a consensus to get things done."

Environmentalists, however, said excluding the environment would not help forge a new consensus on U.S. trade policy.

"This approach is unlikely to earn the public support the administration needs to successfully negotiate future trade agreements," said Jake Caldwell, trade and environment program manager at the National Wildlife Federation.

Daniel Seligman, trade program director at the Sierra Club, said Crane's proposal would increase the ability of foreign corporations to attack environmental legislation.

"Under Crane's proposal, Congress would give up the power to fix trade deals made by the President -- even if those deals threaten the environment and workers' rights," Seligman said.

on Ethyl Corporation NAFTA suit
Even some fast-track supporters agreed that labor and environmental standards would have to be included. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate finance committee, said that although he opposes including labor and environmental standards, these issues would have to be addressed in order for fast-track to be approved.

Every president since Gerald Ford had fast-track authority but Bill Clinton failed, repeatedly, to secure it.

Several environmental organizations began opposing free-trade deals after the passage of NAFTA, which they said weakened environmental and health regulations. Specifically, they have fought NAFTA's investor provisions, known as Chapter 11.

The provisions were originally designed to protect companies from property expropriation but, activists said, multinational companies have used them to trump local health and environmental regulations.

The U.S.-based Ethyl Corporation, for example, used the NAFTA provision to attack a Canadian ban on the inter-province trade in a petrol additive known as MMT.

Ethyl originally claimed $250 million in damages for, among other things, the loss of potential profits. In July 1998, Canada withdrew the ban and paid the company $13 million in damages.

Environmentalists said similar problems exist with the World Trade Organization's dispute resolution panel.

"As long as international trade and investment rules continue to be used to undermine hard won environmental protections, we will insist that environmental values be given equal weight in trade negotiations," said Stephen Porter, senior attorney at the non-governmental Center for International Environmental Law.

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Albion Monitor June 24, 2001 (

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