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Green groups urge lawmakers to oppose USMCA

The Hill logo The Hill 12/13/2019 Rachel Frazin
a close up of a flag: Green groups urge lawmakers to oppose USMCA © Provided by News Communications, Inc. Green groups urge lawmakers to oppose USMCA

Days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on trade, nine environmental groups wrote to lawmakers urging them to vote against its passage.

"On behalf of our over 10 million members, we strongly urge you to VOTE NO on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), also known as NAFTA 2.0, which fails to address the climate crisis and adequately protect our environment, when it comes to the House floor for a vote," the groups wrote in a letter to lawmakers Friday.

The letter was signed by Earthjustice, Food and Water Action, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International, the Sierra Club and the Sunrise Movement.

The coalition specifically lamented that the trade agreement "does not even mention climate change, fails to adequately address toxic pollution, includes weak environmental standards and an even weaker enforcement mechanism, supports fossil fuels, and allows oil and gas corporations to challenge climate and environmental protections."

House Democrats on Tuesday announced that they had reached an agreement with President Trump on the USMCA, one of his signature issues.

"This is a day we've all been working to and working for on the path to yes," Pelosi said at a news conference.

Democrats did negotiate certain environmental standards into the deal, including the adoption of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and the restoration of a provision in the old NAFTA that prioritizes the MEA commitments.

The House Ways and Means Committee said that the deal also has a presumption that "an environmental violation affects trade and investment and will require the other government to prove otherwise."

Democrats had negotiated with the White House for months before both sides came to an agreement on the treaty.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office has outlined additional environmental obligations, including prohibitions on some fishery subsidies, protections for marine species like whales and sea turtles, and articles to improve air quality, prevent and reduce marine litter, support sustainable forest management and ensure appropriate procedures for environmental impact assessments.

However, the green groups were not satisfied.

"We cannot afford to lock ourselves into a multi-decade deal that ignores climate change and helps corporate polluters," they wrote. "Instead, as we negotiate and renegotiate trade deals, we need to meaningfully address the climate crisis and ensure we're leaving a safe, healthy planet for our communities and for generations to come."

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