The deal, which still has to be approved by the legislative bodies of all three countries, is a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which U.S. President Donald Trump had vowed to renegotiate or scrap altogether during his campaign.
Environmental groups say that the new deal, which is called the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), benefits fossil fuel interests at the expense of the environment, and that the environmental section of the deal is weak on enforcement mechanisms.
“Trump’s trade agreement with Mexico and Canada is a corporate giveaway intended to sharply limit the powers of government to protect people and the planet,” Friends of the Earth director of economic policy Doug Norlen told the Huffington Post. “This agreement is an attack on our ability to hold Big Oil and Gas accountable for the damage they cause to our communities.”
Green groups are particularly concerned because one major improvement in the deal does not apply to oil and gas companies. NAFTA was criticized because the investor-state dispute settlement process gave corporations rights that overruled environmental protections, especially in Mexico, the country with the laxest environmental laws. The new deal limits those corporate rights for all but U.S. oil and gas companies undertaking government contract work in Mexico. These companies are still allowed to challenge local laws, which Mexican President-Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador plans to strengthen.
“It’s like saying, ‘From here on, we’re going to protect the henhouse by keeping all animals away, except for foxes, they’re cool,'” Sierra Club living economy program director Ben Beachy told the Huffington Post in a phone interview.