by Chris White
President Donald Trump and activists at the Sierra Club apparently have at least one issue in common: neither one of them like the decades-old free trade agreement the U.S signed with Canada and Mexico.
Trump’s agenda prioritizing American manufacturing jobs over those in Canada and elsewhere is placing his administration at odds with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Sierra Club has its own reservations, claiming the 26-year-old deal allowed for the off-shoring of jobs and increase in air pollution.
The president has continually railed against NAFTA, a trade deal former President Bill Clinton signed in 1993 to free up trade across North America. Trump’s bold and flashy rhetoric has mirrored his broad skepticism over trade agreements in general. He often cites the trade deficit as evidence Europe and others are taking advantage of the U.S.
Sierra Club apparently feels the same way, at least in some ways. “They need to know that we do not support Scott Pruitt and we do not support NAFTA,” the group wrote in a press statement railing against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and NAFTA. Their opposition takes a slightly different form than Trump’s complaint.
“NAFTA has been a disaster for our communities. Trade agreements like NAFTA should protect people across borders, not cater to corporate polluters,” notes the statement, which was published on the group’s website in response to Pruitt’s June 26 meeting with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).
The CEC is designed to foster cooperation on environmental matters between the countries in the deal. Like Trump, the Sierra Club goes on to criticize NAFTA for shanking American jobs and cementing into place trade deals that supposedly harm the U.S. overall.
“NAFTA has allowed for the offshoring of jobs and pollution, locked in fracking and tar sands extraction and helped clear the way for disastrous pipelines like Keystone XL,” the statement notes. “It’s time to boot Pruitt and replace NAFTA with a deal that protects workers, communities, and our environment.”
Back in 2014, the Sierra Club released a report charging NAFTA with contributing to “higher levels of air and water pollution” and “the progressive weakening of environmental safeguards” in Mexico. The group has also accused NAFTA in the past of decreasing wages in the beleaguered Central American country.
The likelihood that NAFTA gets a new lease on life gets slimmer by the day. Trump has repeatedly suggested Canada unfairly profits from U.S. trade, and blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “very dishonest and weak” in comments after June’s G7 meeting.
Canada struck back at the Trump administration on June 29 over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, vowing to impose punitive measures on $12.6 billion worth of American goods until the White House pulls back on its tariffs.
The situation is not much better in Mexico. The country’s leading presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, sometimes referred to as AMLO, is expected to win on the back of widespread frustration over endemic corruption, crime, and an overall distrust of Mexico’s ruling class.
AMLO has also previously been critical of NAFTA, a move that has made him very popular among the country’s farmers and the working class. His celebrity among this crowd only grew thanks to the former Mexico City mayor’s confrontational attitude toward President Trump.
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