JPAC public review of the first 20 years of NAFTA and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation

Montreal, 25 April 2013—January 2014 will mark 20 years since NAFTA and its environmental side agreement, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), went into effect. The NAAEC and the environmental provisions of NAFTA were intended to foster the protection and improvement of the environment throughout North America and as such, broke new ground. For the first time, trading partners addressed concerns that free trade might harm the environment by encouraging countries to create pollution havens with lax environmental standards or enforce their own environmental laws ineffectively. Members of the public were also concerned that increased economic activity associated with NAFTA might lead to increased environmental impacts and harm. To implement and oversee the NAAEC, the NAFTA partners included provisions creating the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).1 Many subsequent trade agreements entered into by Canada, Mexico or the US have been modeled substantially on NAFTA and aspects of the NAAEC.

To mark this important milestone, and with a view to providing constructive input for future CEC plans, the Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) of the CEC is conducting a public review of the first 20 years of NAFTA and the NAAEC.

  • What are the environmental successes of the NAAEC and NAFTA? Where have the provisions of those agreements fallen short? And where they have, is the problem in the agreements themselves or in their implementation?
  • Is the CEC achieving the goals for which it was created? Are those goals adequate in face of ongoing environmental challenges in North America?
  • Have the NAAEC and the environmental provisions of NAFTA adequately addressed environmental concerns related to free trade in North America?
  • How could implementation of the NAAEC and the environmental provisions of the NAFTA be improved?
  • Are there important topics the CEC has failed to tackle over the past 20 years?
  • In light of the past 20 years, on what priorities should the CEC focus in the next 10 years and beyond?

JPAC would like to hear from the North American public about their experiences, insights, opinions and perspectives on these important questions. We invite written contributions of information and comments addressing one or more of these questions, or providing other information relevant to the first 20 years of NAFTA and the NAAEC, to be submitted online here or sent to: jpac@cec.org. The due date for contributions is 31 July 2013.

A non-exclusive list of possible topic areas is attached. Contributions of information and comments may be of any length or format. Support for factual assertions is encouraged and will be greatly appreciated.

After reviewing the information and comments received, JPAC will hold an open public meeting on the first 20 years of the NAAEC and NAFTA in Washington, DC, on 17–18 October 2013. The meeting will feature presentations and facilitated discussions among experts and members of the public who contributed information and comments, as well as open discussions involving all participants. Web-based participation will be enabled so that we can reach as many members of the North American public as possible.

LIST OF SUGGESTED TOPICS

The following non-exclusive list includes possible general topics for contributions of information and comments regarding the first 20 years of the CEC. We invite you to provide input regarding to one or more of these topics, or on any other topic related to the first 20 years of the CEC.

  • CEC relevance
  • CEC impact
  • CEC communications
  • CEC outreach and visibility
  • CEC governance, generally, or as applied to the Secretariat
  • JPAC-Council relations
  • Council-Secretariat relations
  • Effectiveness of CEC bodies and advisory committees: JPAC, NACs and GACs
  • Role and effectiveness of CEC working groups
  • CEC budget and administration
  • Effectiveness of public participation and involvement in CEC matters
  • Establishment of a North American environmental agenda
  • Compatibility of environmental laws and policies in North America
  • High levels of environmental protection
  • Pollution prevention
  • Trade-environment linkages
  • Assessment of the environmental effects of NAFTA
  • Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment (NAAEC Article 10(7))
  • Transparency and public participation in environmental matters
  • Compliance and effective enforcement of environmental laws and policies
  • Private access to remedies and procedural guarantees
  • The CEC’s Cooperative Work Program—its successes and shortcomings
  • Article 13 reports
  • Submissions on Enforcement Matters and factual records (NAAEC Articles 14 and 15)
  • Consultation and dispute resolution under NAAEC Part V

1 In addition, two binational institutions were created to improve the environmental conditions of the U.S.-Mexico border region: the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) and the North American Development Bank (NADBank).