Back to top

Protecting the Environment in the Context of NAFTA

Environmental Assessment, Trade
Rolfe, Christopher


This document is based on submissions entitled "Effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the Environment and Regulation of the Environment in Canada" dated February 15, 1993 made by West Coast Environmental Law Association to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly Select Standing Committee on Economic Development, Science, Labour, Training and Technology. That committee was charged with consideration of British Columbia's interest in the North American Free Trade Agreement. The document which follows clarifies and elaborates on several issues raised in the February 15, 1993 document.


Unless environmental issues are adequately dealt with in trade agreements such agreements can have negative impacts on efforts to achieve sustainable development. The North American Free Trade Agreement ("NAFTA") as currently drafted fails to deal with the environmental consequences of free trade, and as a result discourages sustainable development and may stymie efforts at effective environmental regulation. This paper recommends provisions which could be included in an environmental agreement parallel to NAFTA that would encourage sustainable development and safeguard the power of Canadian governments to pass effective environmental regulation. The objective of this paper is to make constructive criticisms of NAFTA, suggesting changes acceptable within the context of a North American free trade area.

Unfortunately Canada, the United States and Mexico have so far largely ignored the environmental effects of NAFTA, burying any concerns in the sanguine assumption that trade will inevitably lead to increased wealth which will inevitably lead to a better environment. Unfortunately this sanguine assumption does not bear up to analysis. The primary objective of the Canadian government's environmental review of NAFTA is apparently to appease concerns rather than objectively deal with the impacts of NAFTA on regulation making and the environment.

Publication Date: 
March 1, 1993
Publication Pages: 
Publication Format: