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January 2014 will mark 20 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its environmental side agreement, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC).

To celebrate, the Commission on Environmental Cooperation’s Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) is collecting information and comments on the first 20 years, for use in a 20th anniversary discussion 17–18 October 2013, in Washington, DC. The CEC says: “Trade and environment experts, including activists, government officials and academics, will reflect on the successes and shortcomings of the agreement, and how or whether trade liberalization can continue to coexist with strong environmental protection.

The NAAEC was signed and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) created in response to concerns that free trade might harm the environment by encouraging the creation of pollution havens because of lax environmental standards or ineffective environmental law enforcement. With new free trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in negotiation all around the globe, there is no better time to reflect on the ideas that led to the creation of the CEC in 1994, considered by many as the first time international trading partners addressed concerns that free trade might harm the environment.

The CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC), which provides advice to the federal-level environment ministers in Canada, Mexico and the US, would like to hear from the North American public about their experiences, insights, opinions and perspectives on free trade and the environment:

  • What are the environmental successes of the NAAEC and NAFTA?
  • Where have the provisions of those agreements fallen short?
  • And where they have, does the problem lie in the agreements themselves or in their implementation?
  • Is the CEC achieving the goals for which it was created?
  • Are those goals adequate in face of ongoing environmental challenges in North America?
  • Have the NAAEC and the environmental provisions of NAFTA adequately addressed environmental concerns related to free trade in North America?
  • How could implementation of the NAAEC and the environmental provisions of NAFTA be improved?
  • Are there important topics the CEC has failed to tackle over the past 20 years?
  • In light of the past 20 years, on what priorities should the CEC focus in the next 10 years and beyond?

JPAC invites written contributions of information and comments addressing one or more of these questions, or providing other information relevant to the first 20 years of NAFTA and the NAAEC, to be sent to: [email protected], or submitted online here. The due date for contributions is 30 August 2013.”

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