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NAFTA 2.0: The Greenest Trade Agreement Ever?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 September 2019

Laval University, Canada
University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
Laval University, Canada
University of California, Santa Cruz, USA


The renegotiation of what US President Trump called ‘the worst trade deal ever’ has resulted in the most detailed environmental chapter in any trade agreement in history. The USMCA mentions dozens of environmental issues that its predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), overlooked, and in line with contemporary US practice, brings the vast majority of environmental provisions into the core of the agreement, and subjects these provisions to a sanction-based dispute settlement mechanism. It also jettisons two controversial NAFTA measures potentially harmful to the environment. However, this paper argues that the USMCA only makes limited contributions to environmental protection. It primarily replicates most of the environmental provisions included in recent agreements, and only introduces three unprecedented environmental provisions. Moreover, it avoids important issues such as climate change, it does not mention the precautionary principle, and it scales back some environmental provisions related to multilateral environmental agreements.

Copyright © Noemie Laurens et al. 2019 

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The rubric ‘Snipings’ is intended for contributions which, while rigorous, offer early analyses of issues of immediate policy relevance for the multilateral trading system. They would normally be shorter and possibly be less extensively documented than our standard articles with a view to stimulating current debates. They are subject to standard, albeit expedited, refereeing procedures. Further submissions under this heading are welcome.


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