than Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, and Reynosa. The main non-maquiladora industry that has suffered
from NAFTA is the automobile industry.
For more details on this topic, see NAFTA's Impact on the Environment.
Securing U.S. congressional approval for NAFTA would have been impossible without addressing
public concerns about NAFTA’s environmental impact. The Clinton administration negotiated a
side agreement on the environment with Canada and Mexico, the North American Agreement on
Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), which led to the creation of the Commission for
Environmental Cooperation (CEC) in 1994. To alleviate concerns that NAFTA, the first regional
trade agreement between a developing country and two developed countries, would have
negative environmental impacts, the CEC was given a mandate to conduct ongoing
environmental assessment of NAFTA.
In response to this mandate, the CEC created a framework for conducting environmental analysis
of NAFTA, one of the first
frameworks for the environmental assessment of trade
liberalization. The framework was designed to produce a focused and systematic body of
evidence with respect to the initial hypotheses about NAFTA and the environment, such as the
concern that NAFTA would create a “race to the bottom” in environmental regulation among the
three countries, or the hope that NAFTA would pressure governments to increase their
environmental protection mechanisms.
The CEC has held four symposia using this framework
to evaluate the environmental impacts of NAFTA and has commissioned 47 papers on this
subject. In keeping with the CEC’s overall strategy of transparency and public involvement, the
CEC commissioned these papers from leading independent experts.
Overall, none of the initial hypotheses was confirmed. NAFTA did not inherently present a
systemic threat to the North American environment, as was originally feared, but NAFTA-related
environmental threats instead occurred in specific areas where government environmental policy,
infrastructure, or mechanisms, were unprepared for the increasing scale of production under
trade liberalization. In some cases, environmental policy was neglected in the wake of trade
liberalization; in other cases, NAFTA's measures for investment protection, such as Chapter 11,