The strategy of the anti-NAFTA groups is to make trade strengthened with Mexico threatening American public opinion. Given that Americans are unlikely to be accused of calling for protection of such specific interests as unions, environmental groups and non-competitive industries, opponents of NAFTA`s free trade rules have targeted environmental and labour issues to increase the appeal of their cause. A precedent for environmental assessments of U.S. trade agreements is the requirement for environmental impact reporting under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. However, the statements of this legislation are an analysis of a solid project, for example. B a dam known in advance. However, the environmental assessment of a possible outcome of the negotiations is a moving objective, as the outcome of a trade negotiation is never known until its end. A second important difference is the enormous complexity of predicting the outcomes of a trade agreement that can cover many different topics and two or more countries. Third, data on the potential impact on the environment are often very sketched out, especially when one of the parties to the trade agreement is a developing country with limited statistical information. While NAFTA is not perfect, it is a major step forward from existing Mexico-U.S. relations.
A rejection of NAFTA or a renegotiation to increase state control of trade would do little to protect American jobs or promote environmental protection. In fact, a managed North American free trade area could be worse than the existing trading system with Mexico. It would increase costs for small and medium-sized U.S. businesses and limit the private resources available for environmental protection. Under an administered trading system, power would rest with the many government bureaucrats and industry lawyers who would result from an increase in the rules for “managing” trade. A number of countries – including South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Portugal, France and Italy – subsidize all their fishing fleets. In the absence of a comprehensive trade agreement, in which everyone is prepared to forego these subsidies at the same time and in which they will obtain compensatory concessions, these countries will continue to subsidize capacity building and the survival of an increasing number of fish species will be called into question. Conversely, strong proponents of free trade, including most businessmen and many academics, have argued that expanding trade promotes efficiency and economic growth.
According to this argument, this new economic wealth can be used to strengthen environmental responsibility and promote health and safety. Free traders argued that any environmental effects of trade agreements would be minimal and that, in any event, the best way to protect the environment through separate environmental and safety agreements. However, one area in which trade policy needs to better understand the legitimate concerns of the environmental community is the conduct of environmental assessments of the likely effects of the U.S. agreements on their partners in developing countries. While the United States is required to respect the sovereignty of these countries, it could propose funding a study on the potential environmental effects of its developing country partners, and it could encourage an international organization such as the United Nations Environment Programme to conduct such assessments. In August 2005, doubts about the Investor-State provisions were further reduced when a NAFTA court dismissed Methanex`s complaint. (In 1999, as noted above, Methanex had challenged a California regulation banning the MTBE gasoline additive in a case that appeared to confirm the concerns of many conservationists.) The court not only dismissed the methanex case; It also awarded $4 million in damages to the United States.