One More Reason to Hate NAFTA: It’s Bad for The Environment

There’s been much discussion this election cycle over the North American Free Trade Agreement: Barack Obama’s against it, Hillary Clinton helped create the thing but thinks it’s the devil now, and John McCain thinks you’re a whippersnapper for questioning the viability of it.
Image from Yuan2003

Americans, by and large, probably shouldn’t have an issue with it; for most of my lifetime, Europe was on the verge of political and economic irrelevance, and then they formed the EU and began to push America that same way. The obvious counter would be for North America to unite in a similar fashion, right?

It does make sense, economically: free trade leads to a lower cost of goods, and in countries like Mexico, that’s not the sort of thing that makes it easier for you to go on vacation, it’s the sort of thing that can stop a war. But what about as domestic policy? The main reason two thirds of the presidential candidates want to do away with it is because NAFTA has allowed thousands of jobs to leave the country, and that’s where the environmental impact comes in.

No matter what you think of free trade, we’ve all established that the best, and easiest, thing you can do to help the environment, is to buy locally made goods. The transport costs, in terms of carbon, are phenomenal, even to just move one pound of coffee or one pair of shoes. This is what’s potentially devastating about free trade: by removing the tariff on foreign-made goods, the company moving the product doesn’t feel that pain. So as long as it is cheaper to move that item, than it is to produce it locally (and it always will be) then they’re going to do that.

Without an agreement like NAFTA, which allows the penalty-free relocation of local production facilities thousands of miles away, companies are much more likely to be green in some aspect, even if they’re not intending to.