Despair, resolve among climate activists over USMCA’s environmental shortfalls

Despair, resolve among climate activists over USMCA's environmental shortfalls

WASHINGTON — Climate activists in the United States call it an abject failure, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is insisting the new North American trade agreement is a good deal for the environment.

Environmentalists say the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement ignores climate change, avoids meaningful pollution standards and lacks enforcement tools — just some of the reasons why prominent Capitol Hill lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Schumer and presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders refused to support it in the Senate.

Amanda Maxwell, director of the Latin America Project with the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council, calls the agreement signed Wednesday by President Donald Trump a “fail” on the environment front.

Trudeau, however, says USMCA’s environmental provisions are the strongest ever included in a trade deal.

Canada went into the 13 months of negotiations making progressive issues like the environment, labour standards and gender issues a priority, but it was Democrats from the House of Representatives who won major concessions from the Trump administration — primarily on labour reforms in Mexico.

Maxwell is urging the federal government, which has only just introduced its own implementation bill in the House of Commons, to do whatever it can at this late stage of the game to ensure the agreement mitigates its own likely impact on the environment.

Trudeau, who was in Montreal to sing the praises of USMCA, said Canadians can take pride in the agreement.

“I am incredibly proud of the updated USMCA, because it features the strongest environmental protections of any trade deal signed anywhere in the world,” he said.  

“It is something that Canada demanded, that we have stronger environmental protections. The U.S. Democrats pushed as well to improve the deal, and as we move forward with USMCA, we can now be comfortable that we are protecting the environment, as well as protecting so many jobs and families.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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