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Tufts Researcher Says CAFTA Endangers Environment

Tufts Researcher Says CAFTA Endangers EnvironmentInan op-ed column, a Tufts environmental expert says that the CentralAmerican Free Trade Agreement could do more harm for the environmentthan good. Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.22.05] As the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)awaits Congressional approval, supporters and detractors of thepact are drawing up their arguments in favor of or against theplan. According to one Tufts environmental researcher, one ofthe biggest faults of the agreement is its stance on the environment.

"Ratherthan building on the modest gains in environmental protectionof the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the administration'sefforts in CAFTA amount to a potentially serious environmentalrollback," KevinGallagher, a research associate at the Tufts Global Developmentand Environment Institute (GDAE), wrote in an op-ed for the ProvidenceJournal.

Gallagher– the GDAE’s principal investigator for the Globalizationand Sustainable Development Program and author of Free Trade andthe Environment: Mexico, NAFTA and Beyond – asserts thatNAFTA standards have decelerated the deterioration of Mexico'senvironment.

Though Mexicohas seen its share of environmental challenges, such as pollutionlevels that are rising at rates higher that its economic and populationgrowth, and declines in local agricultural livelihood caused bythe importation of cheap crops from the United States, Gallaghersays, NAFTA regulations have helped abate some of the problems.

The NorthAmerican Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), establishedby NAFTA in 1994, has provided environmental funding, resourcesand aid, as well as aided in sustainable development projects,according to Gallagher.

"Althoughthere is much room for improvement, the CEC has also been remarkablyaccountable to the three governments and civil-society organizationsalike," he wrote in the Journal. "Indeed, theCEC has helped Mexico pass a law on information related to therelease of polluting chemicals that is stronger than such legislationin either the United States or Canada."

While CAFTAimproved over NAFTA by having the environmental components ofthe agreement encoded directly within the pact and not in a side-agreement,Gallagher says there are two major drawbacks to the plan as itstands.

"Notonly does CAFTA lack a CEC-like entity for environmental enforcementand cooperation; it also allows private firms to sue CAFTA governmentsfor enacting environmental regulations that may cost those firmsmoney to implement," the Tufts GDAE researcher wrote in theJournal.

Gallagherwarns that President Bush cannot dismiss environmental concernswhen negotiating wide-scale trade agreements like CAFTA.

"Untilthe U.S. president recognizes that trade agreements must preservethis country's ability to lead in environmental protection, andto provide incentives for trading partners to follow this lead,his administration will fail to harness the votes and public supportneeded for its initiatives," he wrote.


















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