(Updated at 4:05 p.m. to add comment from a spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative)
The leaked draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership contains concessions made on environmental clauses and weakens any attempts by environmentalists to ban shark finning.
The draft, available on Wikileaks, only acknowledges commitments made at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species meeting in Bangkok, where an agreement was reached to protect a number of species including sharks. But the new draft doesn't make these commitments binding or hold countries accountable for commitments made.
"We've been calling for a ban on shark finning, which should be in this chapter," said Ilana Solomon from the Sierra Club.
According to Solomon, the leaked text only asks countries to develop strategies for fish management, which may include plans to address shark finning.
Shark finning involves cutting of the fins and leaving the animal to die. The fins are considered a delicacy in some Asian countries and are also used for their medicinal properties. Finning is seen as one of the major reasons for the declining population of sharks.
“A prohibition on shark-finning is one among the many trailblazing proposals that the United States has contributed to the TPP," a spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative told UPI. "Despite resistance, we are continuing to push for the strongest possible outcome that is fully supported by comprehensive environmental enforcement."
The TPP is the cornerstone of President Obama's strategy of developing relations with Asian countries, and he has called it his "top trade priority." But environmental groups are worried about the concessions being made in order to reach a final deal.
"If the environment chapter is finalized as written in this leaked document, President Obama's environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush's," said Michael Brune, with the Sierra Club.