Week 3: Promoting Trade & Protecting the Environment
By Elizabeth Pietanza
On January 19 and 20, 2004, Deloitte sent two attorney colleagues and me to a seminar entitled, "Doing Business in the Americas After the Chile-U.S. Free Trade Agreement." It was sponsored by the ABA, five U.S. and Chilean law firms and the American University/Washington College of Law. Panelists and presenters included the former U.S. Ambassador to Chile, the lead U.S. and Chilean negotiators for the FTA, various diplomats from Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Chile, and international legal practitioners, academics and NGO leaders. The seminar primarily focused on the environmental aspects of the FTA.
The Chile-U.S. FTA serves of great importance environmentally because it makes the unprecedented move of explicitly requiring certain environmental standards in the context of a free trade agreement. Under the FTA, both parties agree to establish high levels of environmental protection and enforce environmental legislation. They created the Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA), which initially establishes eight projects that will promote sustainable development, such as improving agricultural practices, reducing mining pollution and increasing the use of cleaner fuels (due to go into effect in the second quarter of 2004). Enforcement of the ECA will be administrated by Chile’s Consejo de Defenso del Estado (Counsel for Defense of the State) and Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente (National Commission for the Environment), and the U.S.’ Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency.
Requiring environmental standards in the FTA sets the bar for future trade agreements: it is now unlikely that the U.S. will enter future trade accords without establishing environmental protections. Environmental issues are explicitly tied to trade as has been demonstrated by the dolphin-tuna and shrimp-sea turtle disputes. Economically, establishing environmental requirements maximizes efficiency due to use of the latest and most efficient production facilities and the decreased possibility of environmental disputes. Politically, those who are not likely to favor trade expansion may be more open to its benefits if environmental protections are included. The combination of trade and the environment is what can make free trade acceptable and possible. Now Chile, being the first Latin American country to agree to such regulations, is in a position to influence its fellow hemispheric countries when the environmental issue arises in the future negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
Learning more about the connection between trade and the environment reminds me of the power and potential there is in practicing law. Instead of combating each other, parties with seemingly distinct agendas can arrive at a compromise by debating the issues and working together. It is a lawyer’s skills in researching facts and issues, analyzing them according to law and circumstances, defending certain principles and negotiating others that can help create alternative and beneficial solutions.
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