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Remarks by Ambassador Michael Froman at the Department of State ‘Our Ocean’ Conference

Remarks by Ambassador Michael Froman at the Department of State ‘Our Ocean’ Conference

Washington. D.C.
June 17, 2014

*As Prepared for Delivery*

I want to thank Secretary Kerry and Cathy Novelli for organizing this terrific event.

When we’re talking about sustainable oceans, trade policy isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind.  So we’re grateful to include trade as a topic of conversation today.  To paraphrase Vice President Biden: This is a big deal.  And as this conference has underscored in a variety of ways, keeping our oceans healthy requires us to use every tool we have available and trade policy is potentially a very powerful tool.

The United States is currently negotiating two of the most ambitious trade agreements in history – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) Agreement with the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) with 11 other Asia-Pacific countries.  In both of these agreements, strong, enforceable environmental provisions are central objectives for the United States.  Because of the sheer size of these agreements – together they cover nearly two-thirds of the global economy – they provide important opportunities for advancing the agenda we’ve been talking about here today and raising international standards at the nexus of trade and the environment.

From the beginning, we’ve seen TPP as a potential model for other trade agreements to take on environmental sustainability issues, particularly illegal logging, illegal wildlife trade and illegal fishing.  Yesterday, I was in New York where I met with some of our fine law enforcement officers from Customs and Border Patrol as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service who are on the frontlines to combat wildlife trafficking, an area where we are trying to make further progress in TPP. 

We are also seeking, in TPP, ground-breaking commitments to protect our oceans – commitments never seen before in a trade agreement.  We’re working to advance sustainable fisheries management, including management systems that are based on internationally recognized best practices and the best scientific information available and to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, or “pirate fishing”.

Very importantly, we’re also working to prohibit some of the most harmful fisheries subsidies, such as those that contribute to overfishing.  For over a decade these subsidies have been the topic of much discussion and little action at the WTO.  In TPP, we’re seeking a breakthrough, of sorts, and we are hoping that in T-TIP the European Union will join us in taking on these subsidies. 

And we’re working to promote the long term conservation of sharks and other threatened marine species, as well as addressing marine pollution issues.

All of these provisions build on our commitment to implement CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

While the details of proposals are not yet fully agreed upon, they are gaining momentum.  When completed, the TPP will include the most advanced environment chapter of any trade agreement ever negotiated, and it will be fully enforceable and subject to the same strong dispute settlement mechanism that applies to other obligations in the agreement. 

Let me leave you with a concluding thought.  Globalization has affected us all in different ways.  There are positive aspects, and less positive aspects, but either way, it is a fact of life.  The choice that faces us is not whether we can roll back the tide of globalization, but whether we should shape it or be shaped by it.  This is true on issues ranging from wages to working conditions to the appropriate level of environmental protection. 

Through TPP, T-TIP and our other trade negotiations, we seek to shape globalization, to level the playing field by raising standards – from labor and the environment to intellectual property rights and a free and open Internet.  We are pursuing a trade policy that is consistent both with our interests and our values.  But we will only succeed in raising those standards when we succeed in negotiating those deals and securing Congressional approval for them.

You all are here today because you are leaders and opinion shapers – including my fellow panelists.  If we care about these issues, as we do, we cannot afford to lose an opportunity to have a significant impact.  I look forward to working with all of you further this agenda.