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NAFTA and the Environnment : Seven Years Later

NAFTA and the Environnment : Seven Years Later

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Air and water pollution blighted northern Mexican cities long before NAFTA was a glimmer on the political horizon. Not surprisingly, when NAFTA became a political reality, environmentalists reacted by arguing that commercial competition would weaken environmental standards in all three countries, and that industrial growth in Mexico would further damage its weak environmental infrastructure. NAFTA's huge success in expanding free trade has concentrated population and environmental abuse at the U.S.-Mexico border-where it is most visible to Americans. Many environmental groups blame NAFTA and, drawing on its experience, now oppose new trade initiatives.

Does the NAFTA record on the environment since 1994 justify their criticism? In this seven-year analysis, the authors review NAFTA'S environmental provisions, including a side accord-the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), the situation at the U.S.-Mexican border, and the trends in North American environmental policy. Theyemphasize that the environmental problems of North America were not the result of NAFTA nor was the NAAEC devised to address all of them. The authors offer recommendations to better NAFTA's environmental dimension in all three countries, and improve living conditions where economic growth is greatest-at the U.S.-Mexican border. It makes more sense to tackle the shortcomings than to lament NAFTA and the economic growth it promotes.