Certification: How The US Demands Even More Concessions After Trade Agreements Have Been Signed And Ratified
from the enough-is-never-enough dept
The battle raging over the fast track bill is essentially one about control: who gets the final say over so-called trade agreements like TPP and TAFTA/TTIP. If the US President is not given trade promotion authority, it is possible that Congress will demand changes to the negotiated text; with fast track, it will be a simple up or down vote. That's also the situation in other countries participating in the negotiations: once the text is agreed upon, they can essentially accept it or reject it. However, a group of senior politicians in five of the TPP nations point out that after those votes, the US can still demand further concessions from its partners thanks to a process known as certification:
Senior parliamentarians from five countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement have signed an open letter urging their political leaders to protect their nations’ sovereignty from the United States' process of certification.
Here's how that works:
The US withholds the final steps that are necessary to bring a trade and investment treaty into force until the other party has changed its relevant domestic laws and regulations to meet US expectations of its obligations under the agreement. In the past, US 'expectations' have gone beyond what is in the actual text, and even included matters that were rejected in negotiations.
In other words, even though other nations might think that after their agreement and ratification of the text, everything is fixed, the US reserves the right to come back and demand changes to domestic laws and regulations so as to ensure that the implementation is as it wishes. That's no mere theoretical option: it has been used against both Peru and Australia recently. In the latter case, the US was unhappy with the legislation enacting the Australia-US free trade agreement (AUSFTA), and demanded that Australia bring in a supplementary law that actually went beyond the terms of AUSFTA. Even then, the US reserved its right to take legal action if it felt that Australia had still not gone far enough.
US officials can define another country's obligations; become directly involved in drafting that country's relevant law and regulations; demand to review and approve proposed laws before they are presented to the other country's legislature; and delay certification until the US is satisfied the new laws meet its requirements.
The publication of the open letter (pdf) to the political leaders of the TPP nations is a timely reminder that however much sovereignty they might be willing to give up during the negotiations for the sake of supposed gains, the US may want even more concessions -- without, of course, granting other countries the same prerogative.