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Publication Overview

NAFTA’s Environmental Record: History, outcomes, impacts and options

The NAFTA renegotiations have begun, and the fate of the various environmental provisions in NAFTA look bleak. 

It is unclear if the proposed White House budget cuts will prevail. What is clear is that the Trump Administration’s pitting of environmental protection against a jobs agenda is a throwback to an old jobs-versus-environment debate that empirical evidence has discounted.  

It is too early to tell what role the environment will play in the NAFTA negotiations: Canada has promoted a new generation of progressive trade policies, while Mexico has shown leadership across a range of environmental, biodiversity and forestry issues. Meanwhile, some points of irritation for the United States—namely softwood lumber and dairy—fall outside of NAFTA altogether, and demands to change NAFTA Chapter 19 dispute settlement rules are confounding, given the United States' track record in winning those cases.  

As the outcomes of these renegotiations are still unkown, IISD has asked various experts from across Canada, the United States and Mexico to give their perspectives on NAFTA and the pending negotiations. This commentary, written by IISD President and CEO Scott Vaughan, is one piece in this series.