Paris Climate Treaty Casts Shadow over TPP

Credit: Presidencia de la República Mexicana

Credit: Presidencia de la República Mexicana

President Obama will sign on to some form of a climate change treaty in Paris and he will refuse to submit it to the Senate for ratification.

Why is the lame-duck Obama emboldened to flout the Constitution on this landmark treaty?

The answer lies in Congress’s attempt to force the president to bring his Iran deal to the Senate for ratification. When Republicans decided to “assert their authority” by passing legislation requiring that Obama submit the nuclear deal to Congress in a form that could only be rejected if a two-thirds majority in both chambers were willing to override his veto, the seeds were sown for Obama’s complete disregard for constitutional treaty powers.

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Not coincidentally, during the same timeframe, Obama and Republican congressional leaders were working overtime to provide the executive with what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then called “an enormous grant of power” by allowing him to fast-track trade deals through Congress.

These two actions in tandem have set the stage for the imperial Obama who will sign the treaty, use his regulatory agencies to write rules based upon it and dare Congress or the courts to stop him.

And it is this experience that will doom Obama’s attempt to rewrite the rules of the world’s economy through his recently completed, yet unsigned, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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Under the rules of fast-track, once Obama signs the TPP, Congress will be on the clock to have an up-or-down vote in both the House and the Senate without amendments or filibusters. Into this decision-making mix, the majority in Congress will be pulling out the stops to stop the Paris treaty.

TPP matters in this post-Paris climate treaty signature context because it provides the international framework to enforce the climate change agreement without any additional congressional approval. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office made the importance of using the TPP to enforce the green agenda clear in a January 2014 press release when they declared:

The United States’ position on the environment in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is this: environmental stewardship is a core American value, and we will insist on a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the TPP or we will not come to agreement.

Our proposals in the TPP are centered around the enforcement of environmental laws, including those implementing multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) in TPP partner countries, and also around trailblazing, first-ever conservation proposals that will raise standards across the region.

There can be little doubt that Obama plans on using the Trans-Pacific Partnership governance as the means to enforce whatever he agrees to in Paris on the U.S. all the while our trade partners will ignore it, with the threat of international trade sanctions imposed against the United States should Congress or a future president roll back his agenda.

It is also clear that Obama intends to force a ponderous federal court battle over whether the Paris treaty should be subjected to Senate ratification, buying him time to move forward with a regulatory agenda designed to meet the terms of the non-ratified agreement.

Given the likelihood that the TPP governance board (which consists of one vote for each of the 12 countries who are currently participating) will act to enforce the Paris climate treaty against the U.S. (but not themselves) for noncompliance during a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders presidency regardless of the will of Congress, the vote on TPP will become the proxy for Obama’s climate agenda.

The truth has always been that the TPP has never been about trade, but instead has been about a rewriting of the rules of the world economy negotiated by a president who vowed to fundamentally transform America. And it is through the TPP that any future president who shares his vision will be able to finish the transformation and no one in Congress will be able to stop it.

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Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government and the former Public Affairs Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor. Americans for Limited Government is dedicated to putting the principles of limited government into action. They work with local groups across the nation to promote freedom, limited government, and the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Their goal is to harness the power of American citizens and grassroots groups in order to put the people back in charge in states across the country.
Rick Manning
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