Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

What C---? - Environmentalists Blame the Swine Flu on NAFTA

I was shocked to read an articles in the Toronto Star entitled "Blame NAFTA for swine flu, experts say" that NAFTA is to blame for swine flu in Mexico. To read the article, go to the following link -

The article notes that:

  • "Sewage-filled lagoons at a pig farm in eastern Mexico – a product of the North American free trade deal – are suspected of creating ground zero conditions for swine flu in this country."
  • "Environmentalists argue lax regulations in the factory farming that boomed in Mexico right after the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and the U.S. are making people sick – and not just with swine flu."

These statements cannot withstand scrutiny. The fact that the negotiators of NAFTA did not foresee every possible actions of corporations does not lead to the conclusion that the Agreement is to blame for the actions of a few.

The NAFTA does not contain rules saying what businesses can and cannot do in the NAFTA Parties -- none of the free trade agreements, trade promotion agreements, closer economic cooperation agreements, closer economic partnership agreements set out specific and detailed regulations that a country must pass to be a party to the agreement. None of the international environmental agreements, nor the World Trade Organization agreements impose such requirements on signatories. It is unfair and incorrect to say that NAFTA is to blame for what international agreements lack.

The interesting thing about the article is that Rick Arnold, co-ordinator of Common Frontiers, a Canadian coalition focusing on Latin America and issues of economic integration that is behind these outrageous statements seems to be complaining about the behaviour of a U.S. company (Smithfield Farms) which has a joint venture, Carroll Farms, in Veracruz, Mexico. In particular, Smithfield Farms' joint venture has pumped swine sewage into a holding pond on the property of the operations.

Let me get this straight, NAFTA is a problem because the strongest party to the negotiations (the United States) did not in the NAFTA negotiations force Mexico to control the activities of Americans operating in Mexico. This goes against the basic tents of the market access fundamentals in negotiations of free trade agreements.

This argument does not work. The environmentalists lose credibility when they make such statements -- they have an obvious agenda to support the reopening of NAFTA. This is not the right approach.

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