UPDATE 1-Groups urge U.S. Congress to reject TPP over environmental concerns

Mon Jun 6, 2016 12:21pm EDT
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(Adds comment from the United States Trade Representative)

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON, June 6 (Reuters) - More than 450 groups on Monday called on Congress to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership if it comes up for a vote this fall, saying the trade deal would allow fossil fuel companies to contest U.S. environmental rules in extrajudicial tribunals.

The groups, most of them environmental organizations, warned that companies could challenge U.S. environmental standards in tribunals outside the domestic legal system under provisions of the 12-nation TPP and the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe.

Congress is expected to vote on the TPP after the Nov. 8 election during a lame-duck session. President Barack Obama wants the agreement ratified before he leaves office on Jan. 20, but opposition to the deal has grown during this year's presidential campaign.

"We strongly urge you to eliminate this threat to U.S. climate progress by committing to vote no on the TPP and asking the U.S. Trade Representative to remove from TTIP any provision that empowers corporations to challenge government policies in extrajudicial tribunals," the groups wrote in the letter to every member of Congress.

Obama's political ally and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said she wants to renegotiate the TPP to include stronger rules on currency manipulation.

Voter anxiety over the impact of trade deals on jobs and the environment has helped power the campaigns of Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running against Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

The letter says approving the deals would enable fossil fuel companies to use "investor-state dispute settlements" to demand compensation for environmental rules through cases decided by lawyers outside the U.S. judicial system.   Continued...