Supporting Free Trade and Environmental Protection

“The United States and our trading partners stand to gain when trade is open, transparent, rules-based, and fair, showing respect for labor and environmental standards.” -- President Obama, May 6, 2009, from the Proclamation of World Trade Week, 2009.

President Obama has detailed a Trade Policy Agenda for the United States that will benefit Americans and the world by pursuing trade policies that embody our respect for entrepreneurship, our environment, opportunity for all and the rights of workers.
Reflecting the importance that the United States places on sustainable development, U.S. trade policy recognizes the necessity of pursuing energy and environmental policies that ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our planet.
Trade and environmental policies must be mutually supportive. We seek to expand economic opportunities for workers in the U.S. and our trading partners in a manner that does not damage the environment. We also strive to boost the green economy—to create jobs and generate economic growth by producing the goods and services necessary for an environmentally and socially sustainable future.

Free Trade Agreements and Environmental Cooperation Mechanisms

In bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs), the United States has pursued the following principal negotiating objectives with respect to the environment:

  • Ensuring that FTA partners effectively enforce their environmental laws and
  • Strengthening the capacity of FTA trading partners to protect the environment by promoting sustainable development.

To achieve these objectives, the United States and its FTA partners have included an Environment Chapter in each FTA. The obligations contained in the Environment Chapters help ensure that our FTA partners have comprehensive environmental frameworks in place and practice effective environmental management. Alongside FTAs, we have also negotiated mechanisms for environmental cooperation that provide a framework for working with our FTA partners to build their capacity to develop, implement, and enforce standards to protect the environment and human health in the context of achieving sustainable development goals. This helps ensure that businesses in these countries are operating under similar environmental standards as businesses in the United States.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has the lead in negotiating the FTA Environment Chapters while the State Department leads the negotiation and implementation of environmental cooperation mechanisms, which may take various forms, such as environmental cooperation agreements, memoranda of understanding, or joint statements on the environment.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was the first free trade agreement to be linked to a complementary environmental cooperation mechanism, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, which entered into force in 1994. Since then, the United States has concluded negotiations for FTAs and associated environmental cooperation mechanisms with a growing number of countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, as listed at the left of this page.

Opportunities for Public Input and Participation

The State Department welcomes public input and participation in the development and implementation of these cooperative mechanisms. Interested individuals and private sector organizations, including businesses and not-for-profit organizations, are encouraged to contact the Department of State's Office of Environmental Quality Transboundary Issues with comments and suggestions. Furthermore, the work programs under the environmental cooperation mechanisms seek to enhance public participation and education in the partner country during implementation.

Our FTAs provide that members of the public may submit comments on matters related to the environment chapter of the agreement. Interested persons wishing to submit comments should click on the link to the relevant FTA and follow the instructions therein. Submissions will be considered by relevant U.S. Government officials; responses will be provided to comments within a reasonable time frame. Submissions and responses will be posted on the web page for the relevant FTA.

Environmental Reviews

For each FTA, USTR, working with the Department of State and other government agencies, has prepared an environmental review to assess the potential environmental impact of the FTA in the United States. Such reviews may also examine global and transboundary impacts. These reviews help guide U.S. cooperation with our FTA partners. Suggestions for future cooperative priorities and activities with these partners are also welcome.

World Trade Organization and Environment

The World Trade Organization (WTO) launched negotiations as part of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) on certain aspects of the trade and environment linkage. The State Department's Office of Environmental Quality and Transboundary Issues participates in the interagency process on U.S. policy on trade and environment issues at the WTO.

Environment Cooperation Successes

Through the promotion of cooperative environmental activities with its trading partners, the United States has already achieved a number of tangible outcomes throughout the world. For example, in the CAFTA-DR region, since 2005 the United States has invested over $77 million in cooperative environmental projects. We also have implemented cooperative environmental projects with our other FTA partners, including Chile, Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman and Singapore.