Rep. Blumenauer To Offer Amendments to TPA, Customs; Introduces Legislation to Improve Enforcement of Trade Agreements to Bolster Environmental Protections

April 22, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC– Today, Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) introduced the Green 301 Act and STRONGER Act – legislation that would allow the United States to more effectively enforce and implement its trade agreements to bolster environmental protections. He plans to offer these bills as amendments to H.R. 1907 on Thursday when the House Ways and Means Committee marks up the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. The Green 301 Act will expand Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to address the unfair enforcement of environmental laws by U.S. trading partners. The STRONGER Act would create an enforcement trust fund, paid for by foreign exporting cheaters, to allow the United States to better enforce and implement our trade agreements, with a focus on environmental and labor commitments. In addition, Representative Blumenauer plans to offer an amendment that would establish as a principal negotiating objective the prohibition on trade in illegally harvested wildlife, timber or living marine resources.

“These bills provide an opportunity to secure and enforce the best possible environmental protections in U.S. trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Oregon companies take pride in their commitment to the environment, and we should ensure our trading partners are held accountable and meet their obligations to raise standards abroad,” said Representative Blumenauer. “Additionally, whether or not a Member is planning to vote for or against TPA, I feel we have an obligation to try and make it better. I am focusing my efforts on improving environmental provisions in and increasing enforcement of our trade deals. I urge my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee to vote yes on these amendments – a yes to better protecting our environment, increasing accountability, and improving aid effectiveness and transparency when it comes to helping our trading partners implement their commitments.”

Green 301 Act of 2015
When any company – be it U.S. or domestic – violates an environmental law of the country in which they’re operating, they should be held accountable. Sometimes, however, foreign countries selectively enforce their environmental rules to advantage their own companies, undercutting U.S. companies. The Green 301 Act strengthens Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to provide USTR with the tools to ensure that the law is applied to everyone, that all bad actors are held accountable, that overall levels of compliance are raised, and that good actors are not penalized for following the rules. By making sure U.S. companies aren’t forced to play by a different and more costly set of rules abroad, we can bolster environmental protections and best practices, as well as U.S. exports.

STRONGER Act of 2015
As trade agreements have evolved to more accurately reflect international commerce, they’ve become more complex. This complexity limits U.S. ability to simultaneously oversee, implement and enforce these agreements. The STRONGER (Supplemental Trade Review, Oversight, Noncompliance and General Enforcement Resources) Act would create an enforcement trust fund using some of the penalties paid to the United States by trade cheaters and manipulators abroad who have been caught, to more effectively enforce and implement our trade agreements.

U.S. agencies would be authorized to use these trust fund resources to enforce obligations under our free trade agreements (FTAs); implement and enforce obligations by WTO member countries in those agreements to which the United States is a party; build capacity for the effective implementation of FTA partner commitments, with priority given to environmental and labor obligations; monitor and evaluate U.S. capacity building efforts to ensure these investments are spent wisely; and clarify that none of the trust fund resources could be used for negotiating new trade agreements.

“Improved compliance with and enforcement of environmental obligations is much needed. Too often, violations of environmental protections included in trade agreements are neglected,” said Lisa Handy, Senior Policy Advisor at the Environmental Investigation Agency. “The STRONGER Act and Green 301 take important steps to improve the critical enforcement gap and seek to ensure that trade policies do not further exacerbate environmental degradation and illegal trade in natural resources.”

“Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States commend Representative Blumenauer for introducing both the Green 301 Act and STRONGER Act of 2015,” said Kitty Block, Vice President of Humane Society International. “These are vital tools to hold our trading partners accountable for uniform enforcement of environmental laws and ensure that they meet their obligations to protect wildlife, including those under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).”

“If agreements like the TPP move forward, they need to include the strongest possible protections for wildlife,” said Beth Allgood, U.S. Campaigns Director of International Fund for Animal Welfare. “We believe that Green 301 and STRONGER can help to safeguard vulnerable species that are at risk from the increased illegal trade that often accompanies increased legal trade.”

STRONGER and Green 301 provide the U.S. government with both a carrot and stick to drive more environmentally sustainable trade,” said Todd Shelton, Vice President of U.S. Government Relations at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “By increasing resources for technical assistance and expanding the tools for enforcement, these bills help translate the environmental commitments of our trading partners to healthier forests, reduced poaching, and restored fish stocks.”  

Click here to read a summary of the Green 301 Act.

Click here to read a summary of the STRONGER Act.