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Trade and Environmental Sustainability

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its various expansion deals directly threaten environmental protections in all countries involved. The investment chapters in these agreements, such as NAFTA's Chapter 11, allow foreign investors to challenge health and environmental regulations for cash compensation if they impede their ability to do business. For example, when the NAFTA expansion to Peru was passed in 2007, Public Citizen and a host of environment groups warned that the Peru FTA would incentivize a massive sell-off of the sensitive Peruvian Amazon rainforest to oil and gas companies. Through its investment chapter, the Peru FTA guarantees foreign firms new rights to acquire Amazonian land for commercial exploration and exploitation. And the FTA greatly limits how the Peruvian government can regulate such lands and their use.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) also has a long history of overturning laws and regulations aimed at environmental sustainability. Just in the United States, WTO rulings have directly led to the weakening of Clean Air Act regulations, dolphin protection laws, the Endangered Species Act, and more. Visit our WTO and Environment, Health and Safety page for more information. Perhaps most importantly, many progressive policy proposals aimed at mitigating the climate change crisis may be WTO-illegal - a clear illustration of overreaching "trade" rules in direct conflict with much-needed public interest policy.

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