EPW Business Meeting: Opening Statement of Ranking Member Carper

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a business meeting to consider H.R. 5430, United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Today, those of us on the Environment and Public Works Committee are considering the new North American Free Trade Agreement treaty. If we view the treaty solely as a vehicle to address climate change, then we didn’t get nearly enough in the agreement – far from it.

“It is no surprise that I, and many Democrats and a growing number of Republicans, too, think that we need to act with a sense of urgency to address climate change.  It’s just been reported that our planet experienced its second-hottest year on record in 2019. The last decade was the hottest decade in the history of our planet. Australia is on fire, the Arctic is melting and our seas are rising. If we were only measuring the new NAFTA by what it does to address climate change, it doesn’t work. Plain and simple.


“The new NAFTA fails to recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement. It continues to give special treatment to fossil fuel interests.  It fails to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which could bring the global community together to reduce the use of HFCs and avoid up to a half degree Celsius in global warming by the end of the century. And like so many of the Trump Administration’s proposals, the new NAFTA fails to even mention the words ‘climate change.’

“With these major deficiencies on the climate front, the new NAFTA’s environment chapter cannot be a considered a template for future trade negotiations.

“Having said that, though, if we’re evaluating the new NAFTA as a trade agreement—which it is—and we consider the new environmental enforcement tools that Democrats fought hard to include, this new NAFTA can work. These new provisions will ensure the rules of this agreement can actually be enforced. That cannot be said of previous trade agreements that the Senate has ratified.


“Thanks to Democrats, it’s no longer the case that if one NAFTA country fails to ratify an environmental agreement it can be used to prevent the others from honoring their obligations.  Moreover, environmental violations will now be treated as trade violations, so when the United States does bring cases under the new NAFTA’s environmental obligations, those cases will be easier to win going forward.


“New NAFTA adds stronger language to ensure that the obligations of all three countries under multilateral environmental agreements, including the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, can be fully enforced. This agreement also includes significant new wins for coastal states, including binding provisions around overfishing, marine debris, and conservation of marine species. 

“And, in addition to its $88 million for environmental monitoring, cooperation and enforcement, the new NAFTA creates an enforcement mechanism that gives environmental stakeholders an expanded role in enforcement matters. This will ensure that environmental violations can be investigated and remedied in a substantive and timely manner.

“Again, the new NAFTA will not solve the climate crisis or remedy this administration’s most egregious environmental rollbacks, and if it was solely an environmental agreement, I could not vote for it. But, the new NAFTA does make significant improvements on past trade agreements, including the original NAFTA. New NAFTA adds important tools and resources that were negotiated by Democrats to strengthen the agreement, hold the Administration accountable to enforce NAFTA countries’ environmental obligations, and help ensure that those who break the rules are actually held accountable.


“And with that, Mr. Chairman, I will be voting ‘yes’ on the new NAFTA today, and I would urge my colleagues to join me in doing so. Thank you.”