WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, and Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following joint statement regarding the environmental improvements they helped to secure in the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is intended to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Specifically, Blumenauer and Carper worked together to develop a new enforcement mechanism that gives environmental stakeholders a direct role in environmental enforcement matters to ensure greater accountability for the Administration in environmental enforcement actions under USMCA.
The new trade agreement passed the House of Representatives today by a vote of 385-41.
“We are proud that the deal that has passed the House today by an overwhelming margin includes important environmental improvements that we worked together to craft. These improvements include a new mechanism to more effectively enforce this new agreement’s environmental goals. After all, an agreement that can’t be enforced isn’t worth much. The provision we developed gives environmental stakeholders — the people seeing potential violations firsthand — an expanded role in enforcement matters and ensures that environmental violations can not only be investigated, but also remedied in a substantive and timely manner. The inclusion of this new mechanism strengthens the overall agreement, holds the Administration accountable for pursuing enforcement of the deal’s environmental obligations and will help to ensure those that break the rules can be held accountable. The Senate should consider USMCA in short order so that this and other important environmental provisions can take effect.”
Background: Under the existing NAFTA, non-governmental organizations and individuals in NAFTA countries can submit allegations of environmental violations to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). Submissions undergo a fact-finding process that can produce a factual record if allegations are found to have merit. Critics have pointed out that, under the current system, the production of a factual record is disconnected from any real threat of a meaningful enforcement action. Under this newly created enforcement mechanism spearheaded by Carper and Blumenauer, when the CEC produces a factual record, the new Interagency Environment Committee – headed by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) – must review the factual record and make a determination within 30 days as to whether environmental enforcement actions under USMCA will be pursued. If the Committee decides not to pursue enforcement actions, it must notify Congress within 30 days of its decision and provide Congress with a written justification for that decision.