Free Trade Can Be Good for Environment, CEC Report Concludes

20 December 2002

On average, free trade has been both good and bad for the environment in Mexico, Canada and the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), concludes a report by the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the environmental watchdog established under NAFTA. The report entitled " Free Trade and the Environment: The Picture becomes clearer" highlights a strong link between free trade and environmental improvements by pointing out advances in technology and management practices, which have led to positive environmental changes. Furthermore, the report states that there has been no evidence for a "race to the bottom" as business has not relocated to areas with the least environmentally friendly regulation. However, on the negative side the report points out that air pollution has increased with the implementation of NAFTA, especially around border communities, due to the increased volume of goods transportation by road. In addition, a fourfold increase of hazardous waste from the US has been observed in Canada due to Canada’s less strict environmental regulations. The report concludes that trade liberalisation can advance and support sustainable development, but only if supported by solid environmental policies. Some observers have speculated that the report tries to put pressure on the US and Mexico to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by paying particular attention to air pollution and calling for immediate action to tackle harmful greenhouse gases.

"Free Trade Good and Bad For Environment," TerraViva, 20 December 2002.

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