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The Planet

Stop NAFTA 'Fast Track'

The Planet, June 1997, Volume 4, number 5

This summer, President Clinton is expected to ask Congress for "fast-track" authority to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement to Chile and other South American countries. The Sierra Club opposes fast-track, whereby Congress grants trade negotiating authority to the President, unless it: requires enforceable environmental standards as a core element of all trade and investment agreements; prevents strong environmental protection laws from being challenged as trade barriers; and guarantees that transnational companies comply with high environmental standards, no matter where they operate.

"The evidence is mounting that U.S. trade policy exacts a fearsome toll on our health and on our natural heritage," said Club trade specialist Dan Seligman. "We ought to fix NAFTA, not expand a failed agreement."

Some examples of the problems associated with NAFTA:

  • Children in Michigan were stricken with hepatitis A after eating frozen strawberries grown in Mexico and shipped to school lunch programs in 15 states. Incredibly, under NAFTA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspects only 1 percent of food shipments from Mexico at the border and Americans must accept Mexico's food safety inspections as "equivalent" to our own.
  • NAFTA took effect, dozens of U.S. companies have fled across the border to Mexico's maquiladora assembly plant zone in search of cheap labor. As a result of increased activity -- employment is up 50 percent -- there's an increase in pollution. Yet NAFTA's border cleanup plan has flopped, generating only 1 percent of the promised cleanup funds.
  • If logging in British Columbia continues at the current rate, Canada will destroy all its remaining ancient forests within 15 years for export to the United States. Proponents of NAFTA claimed that the environmental side agreement would ensure that Canada and Mexico develop strong environmental laws, but British Columbia and eight other Canadian provinces never bothered to sign on.

To take action:

Write your representative today and urge him or her to oppose any fast-track legislation unless it fulfills the requirements listed in the first paragraph above.

To get involved in the Sierra Club's Responsible Trade Campaign, call Dan Seligman at (202) 675-2387; e-mail:

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