New Report Reveals Environmental Costs of North American Free Trade Agreement Environmental Damages

WASHINGTON – March 11 – A massive free trade deal went into effect 20 years ago and has had very harmful effects on communities and the environment in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, according to a report released today.

January 1, 1994 marked the first day of the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and nearly 20 years later, communities are still suffering from its consequences.

Among other conclusions, this report finds that NAFTA:

  • Facilitated the expansion of large-scale, export-oriented farming that relies heavily on fossil fuels, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms;
  • Encouraged a boom in environmentally destructive mining activities in Mexico;
  • Undermined Canada’s ability to regulate its tar sands industry and locked the country into shipping large quantities of fossil fuels to the United States;
  • Catalyzed economic growth in North American industries and manufacturing sectors while simultaneously failing to safeguard against the increase in air and water pollution associated with this growth; and
  • Weakened domestic environmental safeguards by providing corporations with new legal avenues to challenge environmental policymaking.

“These are not unfortunate side-effects, but rather the inevitable results of a model of trade that favors corporate profits over the interests of communities and the environment,” said the report, written by the Sierra Club, Sierra Club Canada, the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC), the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Council of Canadians. “It is time to recognize that the NAFTA model of trade is failing communities across the North American region and harming our shared environment.”


The Sierra Club is America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit
Sierra Club Canada empowers people to protect, restore and enjoy a healthy and safe planet. Active in Canada since 1963, Sierra Club Canada now has five chapters across the country and runs campaigns on Health and Environment, Protecting Biodiversity, Atmosphere and Energy, and Transition to a Sustainable Economy. For more information, visit

The Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC) is a citizens' coalition of unions, peasant and indigenous organizations, environmental groups, NGOs and researchers whose mission is to do research and advocate for justice on economic policy and trade issues in Mexico and globally. RMALC was created in 1991, at the juncture of the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and is a founding member of the Hemispheric Social Alliance and other regional and global networks. For more information, visit

The Institute for Policy Studies is a community of public scholars and organizers linking peace, justice, and the environment in the U.S. and globally. We work with social movements to promote true democracy and challenge concentrated wealth, corporate influence, and military power. IPS turns ideas into action for peace, justice and the environment. For more information, visit

The Council of Canadians is Canada's leading social action organization, mobilizing a network of 60 volunteer chapters across the country. Through our campaigns we advocate for clean water, fair trade, green energy, public health care, and a vibrant democracy. We educate and empower people to hold our governments and corporations accountable. For more information, visit,