Posted by: ericgrimsrud | May 12, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership could be good for the planet

President Obama has recently been doing his best to get The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) approved by the US Congress.  The members of this international trade agreement would include Australia,  Brunei,  Canada,  Chile,  Japan,  Malaysia,  Mexico,  New ZealandPeru,  Singapore,  United States,  Vietnam, and potentially China.

This agreement has been strongly opposed especially by Democrats for very real and defensible reasons – the main one being that it might lead to fewer jobs and lower wages for American workers.  Nevertheless, I favor these types of trade agreements if they could help the entire world address its greatest common problem – the relentless advance of global warming.  As many US critics of forceful action against climate change say “sure we should address climate change, but what about China and the rest of the world?” Indeed, what about them and how can we induce them to also take forceful action?  I think the best answer to that question is to create international financial relationships that put us all in the same boat as much as possible.  This will tend to happen as we all increasingly become part of a shared economic system in which many countries are bound together by tariff-reduced trade relations.  Such agreements will drastically increase the understanding of the inner workings and problems of other member nations and could facilitate solutions to global environmental problems.  And to be more specific, perhaps the only viable solution to the world’s greenhouse gas problem is to install a world-wide carbon tax on the combustion of fossil fuels that gradually becomes stiff enough to cause CO2 emissions to fall to near zero levels within the next couple decades.  If an international group as large as the TPP along with our European allies could accomplish this feat and then charge carbon import duties on goods from non-complying countries, all countries of the world would very likely invoke similar carbon taxes for fossil fuel use.

If, on the other hand, the proposed trade relationships did not include tough measures for reducing global CO2 emissions and combating climate change, I would then be against joining it at the very onset. A free-trade agreement of that type is sure to worsen our climate change problem – as Naomi Cline has clearly explains in her most recent book, “This Changes Everything”.

Another common criticism of the TPP heard especially within the USA is that other countries would then have a greater voice in determining what happens in the USA.  This, I think, is true but also necessary.  We now know very well that the Earth is physically much too small as to allow its many individual countries to do their own thing without regard to impacts on the entire globe.  We all share the same environment and that is literally true with respect to our atmosphere and oceans.  And it is the perturbations of these two entities that are causing our greatest environmental problems – that is, the increasing greenhouse effect of our atmosphere and the increasing acidity in our oceans.

Whether referring to individual human beings or to the only planet we have, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.  While I agree that the TPP might cause some problems for Americans, my take is that we must do what we have to do for planetary survival while also helping those negatively affected by that process. So while I have the greatest respect and admiration for Democratic leader, Elizabeth Warren, on this issue I side with President Obama, who undoubtedly knows what I have said here but for political reasons is hesitant to use the argument. As discussions of the TPP goes forward, note the extent to which forceful action against man-caused global warming is included as component of it.  If that component is strong, the TPP should be supported.


  1. Working together? Eric, you appreciate sequential thinking (focus on the temps, your agenda) but I view the world with random thoughts. How about the crap that’s been going on in the Middle East for the past 70 years. Not taking climate change seriously could a crime against humanity. I think so. Here is another. Twenty years ago, I heard this story from a Palestinian who lived in Rochester after graduating from Luther College in Iowa. His father was a Lutheran minister in Bethlehem.

    Here is a letter from this week’s Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin — the “untold story”. Hard to point fingers consider our treatment of Native Americans but here goes:

    Is May 15 a day of celebration or a day of mourning? For Israel, May 15 is Independence Day, but for the Palestinians, it is a day to commemorate the Nakba, the catastrophe that began when more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes as Israeli forces destroyed more than 400 villages in laying claim to a homeland between 1947 and 1949. How can a story like that be largely suppressed for almost 70 years?

    With the Israeli bombing of Gaza last summer still fresh in our minds, let us remember the Nakba has never ended. The number of Palestinians in diaspora has grown to 6 million. Evictions and house demolitions continue in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights, as well as Israel itself. The daily suffering of the Palestinians under occupation is ongoing.

    Isn’t it time to bring to light their untold story so that honest dialogue can follow and healing begin? Then, at least here in this community where both Palestinians and Jews live, we can begin to work together, doing our part to shape a future narrative where Israel and Palestine describes Christians, Jews and Muslims stewarding together a land sacred to all three faith traditions, making it a place of sanctuary and welcome to all peoples.

    Darlene Coffman

    Rochester, MN

  2. Dave, Thanks for your comment. It allows me to make another major point of the great importance concerning the advance of AGW.

    There are, indeed, “issues” to be concerned about – such as the one you described concerning the displacement of the Palestinians from Israel and, I might add, the displacement and genocide of the Sioux from your home state of Minnesota during the 1860’s. And then there is a much bigger “ISSUE” concerning the degradation of our only inhabitable planet – the outcome of which will affect all of its inhabitants for a longer time than human civilizations have existed, to date.

    Your comment illustrates one of the greatest problems in addressing the really big “ISSUE” here. That is that it is not given the priority of concern that it deserves and tends to be lost in a myriad of much smaller “issues” that people consider to be of equal or even greater importance. Yes, in this instance, people have a hard time seeing the “forest” because of the “trees”.

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