A United Nations human rights expert warned world leaders in the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership Tuesday not to sign the controversial trade pact without being able to guarantee human rights and environmental commitments within the framework of the deal, expected to be finalized in a matter of days.
“The TPP is fundamentally flawed and should not be signed or ratified unless provision is made to guarantee the regulatory space of States,” said Alfred de Zayas, a U.N. independent expert on democratic international order, in a statement Tuesday. “The TPP is based on an old model of trade agreements that is out of step with today’s international human rights regime.”
Zayas urged countries on the brink of signing the TPP to revisit pledges they have made in international human rights treaties in the recently-adopted Sustainable Development Goals.
“Trade agreements are not ‘stand-alone’ legal regimes, but must conform with fundamental principles of international law, including transparency and accountability,” Zayas added. “They must not delay, circumvent, undermine or make impossible the fulfilment of human rights treaty obligations.”
The expert also raised concern over the “enormous” opposition to the deal expressed by social movements and civil society organizations around the world that governments will effectively ignore by signing the deal.
The TPP has been criticized for exacerbating the worst impacts of trade liberalization under existing agreements by further eliminating barriers to trade and strengthening global corporate power. In doing do, the TPP is also set to lock in a future dominated by dirty energy and doom the planet to global warming while empowering corporations to level lawsuits against countries.
Zayas also highlighted the controversial investor-state dispute settlement enshrined in international trade deals as a “fundamentally imbalanced and unjust” element of the TPP.
Such corporate dispute settlement mechanisms through the World Bank allow corporations to sue governments in so-called “corporate courts” for infringing on future profits through public policies such as limiting mining or fossil fuel extraction. These corporate trials unfold in trade tribunals widely condemned as unaccountable.
Zayas stressed that there has been “a serious asymmetry” in these processes in the last three decades, urging for the same “disturbing” experiences to be repeated in future deals.
The U.N. expert’s statements come ahead of the meeting of global leaders in Auckland, New Zealand, on Feb. 4 to sign the TPP. The full draft text of the TPP was released last November, confirming campaigners’ fears about the threats posed by the massive trade deal to labor standards, food security, public health, and the environment.
“The options are not to sign the TPP as it stands, as civil society demands, or not to ratify it, which is the responsibility of democratically elected parliaments,” said Zayas, adding that if the TPP enters into force it should be challenged in the International Court of Justice.
The 12-country trade pact includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam, but analysts say that the impacts of the deal will reach beyond the participating countries.
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