Greenwashing the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Fossil Fuels, the Environment, and Climate Change

Santa Clara Journal of International Law, 14(2), pp. 488-542.

55 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2016

See all articles by Matthew Rimmer

Matthew Rimmer

Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Date Written: July 11, 2016


There has been much controversy over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a plurilateral trade agreement involving a dozen nations from throughout the Pacific Rim – and its impact upon the environment, biodiversity, and climate change.

The secretive treaty negotiations involve Australia and New Zealand; countries from South East Asia such as Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan; the South American nations of Peru and Chile; and the members of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada, Mexico and the United States. There was an agreement reached between the parties in October 2015. The participants asserted: ‘We expect this historic agreement to promote economic growth, support higher-paying jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and to promote transparency, good governance, and strong labor and environmental protections.’ The final texts of the agreement were published in November 2015.

There has been discussion as to whether other countries – such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea – will join the deal. There has been much debate about the impact of this proposed treaty upon intellectual property, the environment, biodiversity and climate change. There have been similar concerns about the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – a proposed trade agreement between the United States and the European Union.

This article contends that the TPP fails to meet the expectations created by President Barack Obama, the White House, and the United States Trade Representative about the environmental value of the agreement. First, this piece considers the relationship of the TPP to multilateral environmental treaties. Second, it explores whether the provisions in respect of the environment are enforceable. Third, this article examines the treatment of trade and biodiversity in the TPP. Fourth, this study considers the question of marine capture fisheries. Fifth, there is an evaluation of the cursory text in the TPP on conservation. Sixth, the article considers trade in environmental services under the TPP. Seventh, this article highlights the tensions between the TPP and substantive international climate action. It is submitted that the TPP undermines effective and meaningful government action and regulation in respect of climate change. The conclusion also highlights that a number of other chapters of the TPP will impact upon the protection of the environment – including the Investment Chapter, the Intellectual Property Chapter, the Technical Barriers to Trade Chapter, and the text on public procurement.

Keywords: Trans-Pacific Partnership, Environment, Climate Change, Intellectual Property, Biodiversity

Suggested Citation

Rimmer, Matthew, Greenwashing the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Fossil Fuels, the Environment, and Climate Change (July 11, 2016). Santa Clara Journal of International Law, 14(2), pp. 488-542., Available at SSRN:

Matthew Rimmer (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, Queensland QLD 4000

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