The recent United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA), which updates the prior North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), aims to modernize and strengthen the environmental obligations defined in the NAFTA and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC).

This brief article summarizes the most important points found in Chapter 24 of the text of the USMCA.  Once ratified by the governments of the three signatory nations the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement will have a term for sixteen years.  After that period the treaty will be subject to revisions every six years.

The environmental chapter of the USMCA

When NAFTA entered into force in 1994, it linked trade to the environment through the NAAEC.  In this sense, Chapter 24 of the United-States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement renews and strengthens previously agreed upon rules governing the environment.  Among the obligations and commitments outlined under the agreement are:

  • Procedural Issues – Chapter 24 of the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement allows for interested parties to allege any violations of environmental rules stipulated by the treaty. It also obliges the governments of the participating nations to establish sanctions and punitive measures related to such violations;
  • Protection of the Ozone Layer – The USMCA mandates that each party to the treaty take measures to protect the ozone through specific programs;
  • Protection of Marine HabitatsThe United States-Canada-Mexico Trade Agreement establishes areas of cooperation between the three countries for the establishment of measures to reduce the emissions of pollutants by ocean-going vessels. It also calls for the reduction and adequate management of waste in ports;
  • The Conservation of Marine Life and Fisheries – The USMCA recognizes the importance of promoting and facilitating a legal fishing trade and seeks to remove any unjustifiable barriers to the commerce of these products. It also seeks to implement a program aimed at preventing the overfishing of certain defined marine species.
  • Air Quality Protection – The USMCA establishes cooperation between the partner countries to monitor and measure air pollution;
  • Social ResponsibilityThe United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement promotes best practices of environmentalism in accordance with internationally set standards;
  • Biodiversity – The USMCA promotes and encourages the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
  • Invasive Species – The agreement between the three North American neighbors promotes the prevention, detections, control, and eradication of plants and animals that destruction and non-native to the region;
  • The Conservation of Flora and Fauna in Harmony with Trade – Member countries to the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement must adopt, maintain and implement laws, regulations or other measures to comply with obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). Parties to the USMCA will share information and experiences of mutual interest related to the combat and cessation of illegal trade in flora and fauna;
  • Sustainable Forest Management – The countries that are party to the agreement must undertake, maintain and strengthen institutional lines of action to promote sustainable forest management and the legal trade of forest products;
  • Environmental Goods and Services – The USMCA facilitates and promotes trade and investment in environmental goods and services and commits the parties to the agreement to identify any potential trade barriers to the same.