When Canada, Mexico, and the United States signed NAFTA into law in 1994,
there was widespread concern amongst citizen and NGO groups that the respective
environmental laws of the signatory Parties would suffer from a lack of
enforcement as each country sought to gain a competitive trade advantage.
There was an expectation that trade liberalisation would cause countries
sacrifice their environmental standards in order to attract industry.
This, many feared, would lead to the creation of pollution havens: the
so-called race to the bottom effect.
In response to that concern, an environmental side agreement, the North
American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation was negotiated. Its mandate
is the promotion of effective enforcement by the Parties of their respective
environmental legislation, to address regional environmental concerns,
and to prevent potential trade and environment conflicts (bringing the
Facts to light, CEC). The NAAEC is intended to complement the environmental
provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Commission on Environmental Cooperation is an international organization
created by Mexico, the United States and Canada under the North American
Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. It was established to address
environmental concerns at a regional level, to help prevent potential
conflicts over trade and the environment, and to function as:
'an environmental watch-dog mandated to oversee
of environmental laws by the Parties. The vehicle through which it performs
this role is the citizen Submission Process.
- Christopher Tollefson.
The Citizen Submission Process enables anyone who lives in any of the
three countries of North America to make a written assertion that a Party
is failing to enforce an environmental law on its books. This process
is administered by our client, the Submission on Enforcement Matters unit
of the CEC.
The product of this process, if it is not terminated earlier, is a Factual
Record that may be produced and made publicly available.
A factual record is a comprehensive document that outlines the history
of the issue, the obligations of the party concerned (that is, the environmental
law that is not being enforced), and the actions of the party pertaining
to those obligations. These factual records are envisioned to contribute
to environmental law enforcement in the following way:
When A Factual Record is made publicly available, it leads increased public
awareness of the issue. This in turn leads the public to place increased
pressure on the government to enforce the environmental laws in question.
Finally, the government responds to this pressure by enforcing the environmental