Op-Ed

TPP will help protect our oceans and environment

Former Gov. Christine Gregoire
Former Gov. Christine Gregoire

Last Monday, the Obama administration and the governments of 11 other countries announced that they had reached the most progressive trade deal in American history – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

As governor, I fought hard to protect our state’s natural resources – our rivers, oceans, wildlife and the air that we breathe – so that Washington families could enjoy them for years to come. At a time when the environmental challenges facing our planet have never been greater, the TPP promises to enact unprecedented safeguards for our natural resources and environment. That’s why I support this trade agreement.

Now more than ever before, our oceans need the protections that the TPP provides. The 12 countries included in the TPP are among the world’s richest in plant and animal life. But on our current course, we risk losing much of this biodiversity forever. The United Nations estimates that fully 70 percent of fish populations are overused, and dangerous and outdated fishing practices are threatening to strain stocks even further.

Meanwhile, climate change and pollution continue to pose a grave danger to marine ecosystems, pushing ocean-dwelling wildlife – and the billions of people who depend on them for food and jobs – to the brink of disaster.

The TPP will institute strong environmental provisions to combat these challenges. The deal will preserve our fisheries for future generations by prohibiting dangerous subsidies that contribute to overfishing, by combating illegal fishing and by promoting sustainable management of existing fish stocks. It will help cut back on environmental degradation through ship pollution, while safeguarding endangered marine species like whales, dolphins, sharks and sea turtles.

These provisions are not paper tigers – they’re enforceable. The TPP makes clear that there are clear consequences for violating these regulations, and clear avenues of recourse for citizens to bring complaints to their governments and other TPP members.

If member countries fail to comply with the environmental protections of the agreement, trade sanctions will be applied. Leading conservationists have applauded the use of the TPP to protect marine species and fight unsustainable fishing practices.

These provisions are not paper tigers – they’re enforceable.

Christine Gregoire

Our oceans are not just a crucial wellspring of biodiversity; they are economic drivers as well. When I was governor of Washington, ocean acidification posed a threat to our $270 million shellfish industry. I convened an Ocean Acidification Blue Ribbon Panel, the first of its kind in the nation, to address the effects of global carbon dioxide emissions and ocean acidification on Washington’s marine life.

Based on its findings, I announced a plan of action that Ocean Conservancy praised as “a model for coastal states” to advocate for emissions reductions and other steps to reduce ocean acidification and protect our shellfish resources. The environment was always at the forefront of my agenda – ever since I was first appointed director of the state Department of Ecology back in 1987.

That’s why I am pushing so hard for the TPP today – because I have seen firsthand how smart policies can help protect our natural resources, and because I want my granddaughters to grow up in a world where they can safely enjoy our oceans and their incredible diversity of wildlife.

I’ve called myself a progressive for my entire life. Advocating for sustainable use of our natural resources and wildlife is core to the progressive vision for America – and I have seen how environmentally responsible practices and building an economy that works for the middle class go hand in hand. That’s why I’m asking my fellow progressives to support the TPP.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance protections for our oceans and wildlife around the world – and it is our responsibility to take it.

Former Gov. Chris Gregoire is on the advisory board of the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs, which brings together progressives and Democrats committed to leveling the playing field for American workers and building a stronger economy.

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