On Earth Day

On the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, I remain as committed as ever to protecting our environment. A large part of that commitment means ensuring the United States is raising the bar for environmental rules around the world.

As Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell mentioned last week, trade negotiations allow the United States to hold other countries accountable for common-sense environmental protections.

The reality is, if you care about the environment, you care about trade. That’s why, last week, I introduced a series of trade bills that lock in stronger commitments on the environment in our trade agreements, directing the administration and future administrations to address illegal wildlife trafficking and a host of other environmental priorities from wetlands protection to marine pollution.

The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act requires that those commitments be backed with the strongest enforcement tools, including the possibility of trade sanctions.

The proposed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill, for the first time, directs that America’s trade agreements require trading partners to adopt and maintain core labor standards and environmental protections, and further directs that those commitments be backed by the strongest enforcement tools.  It includes a first ever directive on ensuring implementation of trade commitments that advance human rights. In addition, this TPA legislation states unequivocally that no trade agreement can override U.S. law without congressional approval.

President Obama has said this bill is needed to deliver Trans Pacific Partnership, which the White House says will address illegal fishing and fishery subsidies that result in overfishing, deal with illegal trafficking in wildlife and illegal logging, and cut tariffs on environmental goods, including everything from solar panels to smog detectors.

Specifically, the Trans Pacific Partnership will eliminate burdensome tariffs on all environmental goods, which range as high as 30% in TPP markets, and will address discrimination and market access restrictions facing U.S. environmental services providers. This would create new opportunities for Oregon manufacturers of environmental goods, such as Plasti-Fab in Tualatin, E1 in Bend and Met One in Grants Pass.

Earth Day puts a much-needed spotlight on the vital need to protect our environment, and I will continue working on ways to ensure environmental protections remain paramount today and every other day of the year.