This Article will focus on NAFTA and NAFTA's supplemental environmental side agreement - the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (Supplemental Agreement) -in light of recent events. In doing so, it will suggest that recent events in Chiapas demand a re-evaluation of NAFTA's environmental protections. This is not at all to suggest that stronger environmental protection alone would avert future Zapatista insurrections. The inequities of Mexican land distribution and the poverty of southern Mexican states such as Chiapas have historical roots that will hardly be rectified by more vigorous enforcement of environmental laws.
The argument is divided into two main parts. In the first part, this Article will re-examine the provisions in NAFTA and the Supplemental Agreement. NAFTA may represent, in former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly's oft-repeated phrase, "the most environmentally sensitive trade... agreement ever negotiated anywhere." However, this re-examination will suggest that, in light of recent events, its environmental sensitivities are likely to be insufficient if the larger goal is both increased trade and social stability. A subsidiary aim of this section will be to identify those provisions that most compromise the goal of environmental equity. That is, the section will endorse reconsideration of NAFTA in light of the idea that the most environmentally burdensome and potentially dangerous activities ought first to be minimized and second, where unavoidable, these activities should be distributed equally throughout a society or, in this case, several societies.
In the second part, this Article will look at principles of international environmental law that could be relied upon to shape the future under NAFTA. The focus of this section will be to identify principles that would more truly link trade and environmental goals so as to help ensure economic growth, environmental protection and political stability.
20 Brook. J. Int'l L. 585 (1995).