The Trump Administration signaled its plans to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by issuing the Summary of Objectives for the NAFTA Renegotiation this month. President Trump committed to renegotiate NAFTA in order to obtain more open, equitable, secure, and reciprocal market access with our two largest export markets in Canada and Mexico.

Environmental considerations currently are managed in a side agreement to NAFTA, but one of the Administration’s priorities is to incorporate environmental provisions into the new NAFTA. The Summary outlines 13 environmental issues to be addressed as part of the renegotiation process:

  1. Bring the environmental provisions into the core of the agreement, rather than in a side agreement.
  2. Establish strong and enforceable environmental obligations that are subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism that applies to other enforceable obligations of the agreement.
  3. Establish rules that will ensure that NAFTA countries do not waive or derogate from the protections afforded in their environmental laws for the purpose of encouraging trade or investment.
  4. Establish rules that will ensure that NAFTA countries do not fail to effectively enforce their environmental laws through a sustained or recurring course of action or inaction, in a manner affecting trade or investment between the parties.
  5. Require NAFTA countries to adopt and maintain measures implementing their obligations under select Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) to which the NAFTA countries are full parties, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  6. Establish a means for stakeholder participation, including commitments for public advisory committees, and a process for the public to raise concerns directly with its government if they believe it is not meeting its environmental commitments.
  7. Require NAFTA countries to ensure access to fair, equitable, and transparent administrative and judicial proceedings for enforcing their environmental laws, and provide appropriate sanctions or remedies for violations of their environmental laws.
  8. Provide for a framework for conducting, reviewing, and evaluating cooperative activities that support implementation of the environmental commitments, and for public participation in these activities.
  9. Establish or maintain a senior-level Environmental Committee, which will meet regularly to oversee implementation of environmental commitments, with opportunities for public participation in the process.
  10. Combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, including by implementing port state measures and supporting increased monitoring and surveillance.
  11. Establish rules to prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies, such as those that contribute to overfishing and IUU fishing, and pursue transparency in fisheries subsidies programs.
  12. Promote sustainable fisheries management and long-term conservation of marine species, including sharks, sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals.
  13. Protect and conserve flora and fauna and ecosystems, including through actions by countries to combat wildlife and timber tracking.

Critics note that the above environmental considerations look much like the provisions in the now defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership that many environmental advocates opposed.

The first round of talks on the possible renegotiation of NAFTA is scheduled to take place in Washington August 16-20. The Summary confirms that “…the new NAFTA will be modernized to reflect 21st century standards and will reflect a fairer deal, addressing America’s persistent trade imbalances in North America.” While part of the agenda, it does not appear that environmental considerations will be a critical portion of these upcoming negotiations.