WASHINGTON -- February 24 -- Last week, the United States signed an Environmental Cooperation Agreement with five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic. The Bush administration is using this agreement in order to gain support from Congress for the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). In response to the Bush administrations actions, the Sierra Club issued the following statement:
"While the Sierra Club supports environmental cooperation among countries, the Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA) signed by Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the U.S. does nothing to address the serious lack of strong and enforceable environmental protections in CAFTA.
"CAFTA follows the failed path of NAFTA and expands the ability of multinational corporations to challenge environmental and public health measures in secret trade tribunals for cash compensation. Under NAFTA, numerous cases have been filed by corporations attacking environmental protections ranging from the ban of dangerous chemicals to the protection of sacred Native American land. Approximately 42 corporate cases have been filed against government laws and regulations with claims totaling billions of dollars. Millions of dollars have already been paid by governments to companies who have won cases against environmental and public health protections, and millions of dollars have already been spent defending environmental and public health laws that have broad public support.
"The laws that are being attacked by NAFTAs corporate lawsuits protect the health and safety of our children and communities, and should not be undermined by global trade rules.
"Environmental side agreements have been used as sweeteners to pass controversial trade agreements in the past. Unfortunately, they lack any teeth, and have not been effective in dealing with the disastrous environmental impacts caused by NAFTA-style agreements.
"Our leaders must ask themselves - does CAFTA meet the test in providing effective and meaningful protections for the environment? Currently, CAFTA does not meet this test, and no environmental side agreement can change that fact."