Baucus Presses for Strong Environmental Standards in Key Trade Agreement
21 Senators Send Letter to U.S. Trade Representative Insisting on Inclusion of Environmental Protections in the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senator Max Baucus, joined by a bipartisan group of 20 senators,today sent a letter urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to include strongenvironmental provisions in the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
CAFTA negotiations, which include the countries of the United States, Costa Rica, ElSalvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, are scheduled to be completed by the end of thisyear. Negotiators are discussing environmental provisions at meetings this week in Honduras.
“When Congress passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) last year, we made it clearthat robust environmental provisions should be included in every free trade agreement," Baucussaid. "The CAFTA countries face environmental challenges on a scale not seen in Singapore orChile, and perhaps even greater than those faced by Mexico when we negotiated the NorthAmerican Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ten years ago. That means we need environmentalprovisions in the CAFTA that are better than those in this year’s Singapore and Chile Free TradeAgreements (FTAs) and at least as strong as those in NAFTA. I am pleased that so manycolleagues have joined me in pressing this point to Ambassador Zoellick.”
U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), one of the senators who signed the letter, todayadded her support for strengthening environmental provisions in the CAFTA.
"We should not allow free trade agreements to permit degradation of the environment inanother country that would give a trade advantage to that nation’s domestic producers,” Sen.Snowe said. “Steps toward improving the environmental protection offered by our tradeagreement partners could both improve the global environmental climate and ensure that U.S.producers are not put at an unfair disadvantage.”
The text of letter follows:
The Honorable Robert Zoellick
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20508
Re: Improving Trade and Environment Standards in the CAFTA
Dear Ambassador Zoellick:
In a few weeks, the United States will host the final scheduled negotiating round for theU.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Under the fast-track proceduresadopted in the Trade Act of 2002, Congress will soon be called upon to vote for or againstimplementing legislation for the CAFTA, but will not have the opportunity to modify theunderlying agreement. It is therefore critical that the CAFTA agreement you conclude nextmonth include provisions that will win broad support in Congress.
In particular, we believe that strong environmental provisions are critical toCongressional approval of the CAFTA. We were disappointed earlier this year when you tabledfor CAFTA the same environmental text used in the Singapore and Chile FTAs. Theseprovisions are not sufficient for the CAFTA countries, where environmental standards andenforcement capacity are lower, democratic institutions are more fragile, and sustainabledevelopment concerns are more critical. Indeed, the Singapore and Chile environment chaptersare a significant step back from the provisions included in the NAFTA ten years ago.We were therefore pleased to learn that you will soon be proposing new environment textto the CAFTA countries. As you revise the U.S. position, we strongly urge you to adopt thefollowing guidelines:
First, the CAFTA environment chapter must be at least as strong as the environmentalprovisions in NAFTA. That means including the citizen petition provisions that were omittedfrom the Singapore and Chile FTAs so that citizens can challenge a CAFTA government’sfailure to effectively enforce environmental laws before a neutral, internationa l, and non-politicalbody. The chapter should also include NAFTA’s guarantee that trade commitments cannot beused to weaken commitments under multilateral environmental agreements.
Second, CAFTA’s environment provisions must be “Chile and Singapore-plus.” One does not fit all. The pervasive weaknesses in environmental standards and enforcement inCentral America warrant a much more robust cooperation agenda and more meaningfulprovisions on corporate stewardship. The U.S. and CAFTA countries must commit to formulatea long-term strategy to improve environmental conditions and enforcement, provide dedicatedfunding over the agreement’s 12-15 year phase- in period, commit to independent and objectivemonitoring of progress toward meeting established benchmarks, and build in incentives thatreward higher standards.
Third, CAFTA must reflect Congress’s negotiating priorities set out in TPA. TPAexpressly instructs the President to make sure that FTAs include an appellate mechanism forinvestor-state disputes. In the Singapore and Chile FTAs, the parties postponed a decision onwhat kind of mechanism might be necessary. Omitting an appellate mechanism from CAFTA isa bad precedent for FTAA and future regional agreements planned in Asia and the Middle East.Moreover, it would certainly lead Congress to question whether TPA requirements are beingflouted.
We urge you to take full advantage of the historic opportunity that CAFTA presents toshow that liberalized trade, sustainable development, and environmental protection can bemutually supportive goals. If that opportunity is squandered, it will weigh heavily in our voteson implementation of the CAFTA.
We look forward to working with you on these issues.
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