The North American Free Trade Agreement: Green Law or Green Spin?

By Charnovitz, Steve | Law and Policy in International Business, Fall 1994 | Go to article overview

The North American Free Trade Agreement: Green Law or Green Spin?


Charnovitz, Steve, Law and Policy in International Business


Throughout the debate in the United States on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)(1), the environmental implications of the NAFTA have loomed as an important factor.(2) Because the NAFTA was viewed as environmentally inadequate by the Clinton administration, the three parties negotiated a side agreement, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC).(3) The NAFTA and the NAAEC both came into force on January 1, 1994, after a bruising battle in the U.S. Congress.(4) Many of those lobbying for NAFTA's approval by the Congress, including the Clinton administration, trumpeted NAFTA's "greenness" as a key reason for adopting the trade agreement. The convoluted politics of the NAFTA made for strange bedfellows. Many members of Congress and interest groups not normally known for strong environmental advocacy highlighted the environmental benefits of the two agreements. For example, Congressman David Dreier (R-Calif.) stated that the "NAFTA is a pro-environment, free trade agreement, not a trade agreement hijacked by extremist interest groups."(5) Conversely, some public officials and interest groups that were known for strong environmental advocacy denied that the NAFTA or the NAAEC would deliver significant environmental benefit.(6)

The purpose of this Article is to analyze the main environmental issues involved in the debate, by examining several critical questions such as: (1) Is the NAFTA really green, or did NAFTA proponents spin the environmental provisions far out of proportion? (2) Does the NAFTA break new ground in incorporating an environmental dimension into trade agreements, or are the so-called environmental "rights" in NAFTA just a reaffirmation of the status quo?(7) (3) Did the federal government "sell" the NAFTA to the American public in an honest manner?

After examining these questions, the Article concludes that there is very little that is "green" about the NAFTA. This conclusion differs from the conclusions reached by most other commentators who have studied the environmental aspects of the NAFTA. In this author's opinion, the NAFTA is a good trade agreement that will economically benefit the United States. But since the Clinton administration pointed to the NAFTA's environmental provisions as a key reason to support the NAFTA, it is useful to analyze these arguments to determine their veracity. The Article concludes that much of the Administrations's rhetoric was false.

The analysis will proceed in the following manner: Part I will explain the rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT),(8) as they relate to the environment, in order to provide a baseline for judging the significance of the NAFTA. Part II will examine some of the environmental claims made, in the words of NAFTA proponents, and compare them to the actual terms of the Agreement. This Part will focus mainly on the NAFTA rather than the NAAEC, because the Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. governments devoted considerable effort to keeping most environmental issues on a track separate from the NAFTA (the so-called parallel track),(9) so it would seem inappropriate to merge them after the fact. Moreover, the agreements are legally separate. Part III will discuss two post-NAFTA developments: the environmental side agreement (NAAEC) negotiated by the Clinton administration and the conclusion of the Uruguay Round. Part IV will put these issues in a broader political context and attempt to draw some conclusions.

1. GATT's Environmental Baseline

A. Selecting the Baseline

Part I will offer a brief primer on the main GATT rules affecting environmental measures. Since my purpose is to provide a baseline for analyzing the NAFTA, only those GATT rules relating to NAFTA's environmental provisions will be discussed.(10) Besides the GATT, there are other relevant baselines which could be used in analyzing the NAFTA. For instance, the NAFTA could be compared to the GATT Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade of 1979 (known as the "Standards Code") which all three NAFTA parties have joined. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The North American Free Trade Agreement: Green Law or Green Spin?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.