Trick or Treaty
Ten years after the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted, controversy continues over the environmental consequences of increased trade between the U.S. and Mexico. Some experts who bitterly opposed NAFTA at the start now feel that the treaty has led to some improvements in quality of life in U.S. border areas — but they say that environmental gains in Mexico have been lagging, due in part to population growth and lax pollution controls. Several border cities have added new waste- and water-treatment plants, yet the capacity of many of the facilities remains inadequate. Environmentalists also worry about unregulated Mexican smelters, solvent plants, and power generators that release contaminants, and point to unremitting air pollution, sewage leaks, and hazardous waste in border towns. Says Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen Global Trade Watch in Washington, D.C., “All the bad things that were predicted to happen did happen, but the things that were predicted to fix it didn’t.”
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