Green Politics and Global Trade: NAFTA and the Future of Environmental Politics

Green Politics and Global Trade: NAFTA and the Future of Environmental Politics

Green Politics and Global Trade: NAFTA and the Future of Environmental Politics

Green Politics and Global Trade: NAFTA and the Future of Environmental Politics


Environmental groups for the first time formalized their role in shaping U. S. and international trade policy during their involvement in NAFTA negotiations. John J. Audley identifies the political forces responsible for forging this new intersection of trade and environment policy during NAFTA negotiations, analyzes the achievements of the environmentalists, and explores their prospects for influencing future trade policy.

The need to reconcile the conflicting paradigms of economic expansion through free trade and that of limited sustainable development played a significant part in the political debate. Reluctant to acknowledge any relationship between these two principles, traditional trade policy actors were forced to include environmental interest groups in negotiations when the latter seriously threatened the treaty by aligning themselves with other anti-NAFTA interest groups, particularly labor. Other environmental groups worked with trade advocates to secure compromises in the agreement. The final bill included unprecedented environmental provisions, but not without serious infighting within the environmentalist community.

Drawing on his access to private as well as public documents exchanged among participants, Audley explores the interactions among the political actors. He explains how political compromises between environmental groups and trade policy elites came about, focusing in particular on the roles played by eleven national environmental organizations. In identifying their accomplishments, he concludes that although the environmentalists won some procedural changes, they failed to modify the norm of unfettered growth as the guiding principle of U. S. trade policy.

The first book to probe the role that environmental politics play in trade policy, this volume offers new insights into the political effectiveness of environmental organizations.


... the sovereignty of man lieth hid in knowledge ... now we govern nature in opinions, but we are thrall unto her in necessity: but if we would be led by her in invention, we should command her by action.

Francis bacon, In Praise of Human Knowledge

The disease of reason is that reason was born from man's urge to dominate nature ... in the first man's calculating contemplation of the world as prey.

Max horkeimer, The Eclipse of Reason

Of all the challenges facing contemporary societies in the effort to achieve a sustainable global economy, perhaps none is more complex than reconciling international trade with environmental goals. Global trade affects each of the most pressing environmental problems—global warming, deforestation, the loss of biodiversity—in complex and often misunderstood ways, a fact that compelled governments to begin to address this issue only in the last few years. This is a study of one of these attempts and about the nature of the political institutions created as a result.

Two powerful ideas lie at the heart of this research project. Market‐ based economies and their close first cousin, the principles of "free trade," advocate constantly expanding economies to meet human needs, while ecologically centered "sustainable development" asks humans to balance their needs with those of other species living together in complex ecosystems. the struggle to reconcile these two paradigms for human behavior were captured as part of the political debate surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Serendipity is the best explanation for the source of my interest in this research project. in 1988 I worked on the Mexico-U.S. border in the business environment commonly known as the maquiladora community. For two years I traveled the border, working with large . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.