On its 20th Anniversary, Criticism of NAFTA for Environmental, Economic Damage

A new report from the Sierra Club, the Council of Canadians and others, condemns the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for failing to improve economic and environmental conditions for most Canadian, American, and Mexican citizens.

According to the report, exports from Canada to the U.S. increased by 200 percent from 1994 to 2008, yet wages stagnated. Further, NAFTA contract obligations for oil encouraged development of the oil sands, while alternative energy sectors suffered, and NAFTA restricted Canada’s ability to regulate oil sands emissions. Pollution increased in the U.S. due to growth in dirtier manufacturing sectors, although employment in American manufacturing dropped overall.

In Mexico, small farmers were unable to compete with large-scale, export-oriented intensive agriculture. Many failed in attempts to improve profits by converting carbon-sequestering forest to arable land. While the mining industry in Mexico did enjoy a boom, smallholders lost out to associated industrial pollution. Wages in the maquila manufacturing sector near the U.S. border simultaneously stagnated, even as operations and pollution levels grew.

Other environmental impacts noted by the report include a significant jump in North American greenhouse gas emissions, unsustainable water use, and the rippling effects of NAFTA clauses that provide corporations with legal avenues to challenge environmental regulations, such as Lone Pine Resources’ ongoing lawsuit against Canada over the Québec fracking moratorium (see our previous report at: https://workandclimatechangereport.org/2013/11/22/fracking-company-suing-for-lost-profits-in-quebec/).

See NAFTA: 20 Years of Costs to Communities and the Environment at: http://www.sierraclub.ca/en/main-page/new-report-reveals-environmental-costs-north-american-free-trade-agreement-environmental-d, and “NAFTA Report Warns of Trade Deal Environmental Disasters” from the Huffington Post at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/nafta-environment_n_4938556.html.

How Sustainable are the Supply Chains of Multinatonal Food Companies?

Oxfam America released Behind the Brands on February 25th, the most recent update to their GROW campaign, which seeks to increase the transparency and accountability of the “Big 10” food and beverage companies in the world. The report is a scorecard which examines company policies in seven topics critical to sustainable agricultural production: women, small-scale farmers, farm workers, water, land, climate change, and transparency. Nestlé and Unilever scored highest for their policies; Associated British Foods (ABF) and Kellogg ranked at the bottom. The other companies measured were: Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Mars, Mondelez International (previously Kraft Foods), and PepsiCo. Read Behind the Brands at: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/files/behind-the-brands-briefing-paper-final.pdf