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The New U.S. Trade Deal Is Climate Sabotage

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If this week is the “Super Bowl” of trade policy—as Republican Senator Rob Portman called it Wednesday—the planet won’t be getting a ring. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the NAFTA replacement which passed 89-10 through the Senate on Thursday, never mentions the climate crisis. It will do plenty to fuel it.

“Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 is a climate failure any way you slice it,” the Sierra Club’s Ben Beachy told me. Beyond continuing to allow companies to seek lax climate and environmental rules outside the United States, under the USMCA they can also challenge new regulations proposed by countries signed onto it before they’re finalized, establishing hurdles to any future climate policy under a new administration.

The deal also goes out of the way to protect fossil fuel companies. All of the tar sands oil that flows to the U.S. from Canada via the Keystone XL pipeline will be exempt from tariffs under the USMCA. While the deal has been praised for largely eliminating NAFTA’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions—which made it easy for corporations to challenge governments over laws they don’t like—there are some troubling exceptions to that policy under the USMCA: Oil and gas companies that have contracts with the Mexican government, for example, will still be allowed to challenge any potential threats to their profits posed by state policy. “It’s like saying we’re going to protect the henhouse by keeping all animals away except for foxes,” Beachy said, adding that “today’s vote moves us one step closer to locking in Trump’s polluting legacy for decades to come.” Climate and environmental groups broadly opposed the deal, including some—like the Natural Resources Defense Council—which enthusiastically backed NAFTA 1.0 in the 1990s.

While 83 percent of Democratic voters believe trade agreements should address climate change, the party’s Congressional delegation largely rallied behind a deal that will make it worse. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed hard to get the USCMA through the House, where it passed by a wide margin. With varying levels of enthusiasm, liberal stalwarts like Senator Sherrod Brown backed it, citing support from the AFL-CIO, along with most of the GOP and the American Petroleum Institute. “For the natural gas and........

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