Trade and Environment: Working Together

10 November 1997

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) last month agreed to begin meeting with trade ministers to enhance environmental protection in North America. The CEC was born out of a side agreement under NAFTA: Canada, the U.S. and Mexico approved the North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation providing for environmental reviews of NAFTA. "I think the idea of some of the ministers is to have a ministerial meeting of trade and environment ministers," CEC's executive director said. "There was no clear date, but there is certainly the intention." Some observers say the CEC lacks real political support from the Mexican, U.S. and Canadian governments, as the three countries face domestic apprehension towards the environmental component of NAFTA.

Writing in the JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, Yale Law School Professor and former NAFTA environment negotiator Daniel Esty defended trade and labor linkages such as the North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation. Collaboration with trading partners on environmental matters, according to Esty, ensures better pollution control and effective management of shared resources. Further, said Esty, to ignore economic externalities of environmental despoliation undermines the benefits freer trade is meant to bring - witness Eastern Europe with its air and water pollution problems. Esty said that to try and separate trade and environmental policies is to ignore economic and ecological reality.

"Environment ministers expand CEC role to meetings with NAFTA trade ministers," INTERNATIONAL TRADE REPORTER, November 5, 1997; "Trade and environment mix," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, November 7, 1997.

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