House Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee worry the language of the renegotiated trade agreement lacks enforceable environmental commitments for Mexico.
As the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee gets underway with considering the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, Democratic lawmakers expressed concerns about insufficient environmental protections in Mexico.
“We have serious concerns about ensuring effective implementation and enforceability of the environmental provisions,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday. “For too long, environmental-related trade enforcement needs have received less attention than other trade barrier cases.”
The letter also was signed by 24 other House Democratic lawmakers.
“The new agreement should be breaking new ground and incorporating more flexible and versatile enforcement tools,” Neal added. “It should be obvious that enforcement in an improved, new NAFTA cannot rely on the broken elements of the existing NAFTA’s dispute settlement procedures.”
The lawmakers criticized the newly negotiated environmental chapter of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s failure to include congressionally prescribed requirements for the three countries to meet mandates for environmental protection and mitigate effects of climate change.
“Not a single arbitral panel has ever been convened under [the current NAFTA] provisions,” Neal said. “Meanwhile, environmental protections in Mexico continue to lag significantly behind those in the United States and Canada.”
For example, the House Ways and Means Committee members cited how U.S. companies export used lead batteries to Mexico to avoid U.S. restrictions on lead pollution, threatening the health of people who handle these materials.
“Further, increased human and industrial development in Mexico created by the original NAFTA, coupled with weak Mexican environmental standards, have led to toxic sewage filled with feces, industrial chemicals and other raw waste contaminating waterways like the New River, which flows from Mexico’s Mexicali Valley through Calexico, leaving neighboring towns subject to polluted air and water,” Neal said.