What the USMCA – The New NAFTA – Means For The Environment

Pieces of trash in the sand at a Lake Michigan Beach [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]
The new NAFTA document includes a section on marine debris, stating that each country "shall take measures to prevent and reduce marine litter." [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]
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Late Sunday night, the Trump Administration and Canada agreed on a deal to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement

The renamed U.S.-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA) addresses environmental issues including invasive species, pollution from ships, sustainable forestry, plastics pollution, and ozone protections.

Case Western Reserve University professor Juscelino Colares teaches international business law. He says this latest agreement goes into more detail on environmental issues than the original pact signed nearly 25 years ago.

“It was more like a statement of goals to preserve environmental quality,” said Colares on the 1994 NAFTA deal. “Now there’s more of an engagement of conversation between the three countries on environment.”

The document includes a directive for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to implement a fisheries management system that “must include the control, reduction, and eventual elimination of all subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity.”

According to Colares, the document features stronger language on how the countries will work together to set similar environmental standards in an effort to prevent jobs from moving to countries with less stringent environmental regulations.

“The new agreement -- the USMCA -- specifically has language providing that countries will not use lower standards as a way to attract business,” said Colares.

In a written statement, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan said he will be reviewing the text to ensure labor and environmental standards are enforced.

Both Republican Senator Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown praised progress on the agreement but said they will be reviewing the details.

It must be approved by Congress.

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