Jpac at Ten: The Joint Public Advisory Committee to the Nafta Commission for Environmental Cooperation
NAFTA CEC Reports, March 21, 2005
44 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2007
This 2005 research report on the Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was commissioned as part of the CEC ten-year review. In light of public concerns over the environmental and social impact of trade agreements, this report examines how a key institution brings a measure of democratic dialogue to the trilateral trade agreement. Drawn from public records, stakeholder interviews, and case studies, the report assesses JPAC's efficacy as a point of public entry and means of influence on the CEC's agenda as well as the environmental agendas of NAFTA Parties. Researchers found that JPAC provided a transparent, open, and substantive forum for public debate over trade and environment issues, and articulated public concerns to the NAFTA Parties. JPAC has been particularly effective in pursuing issues where cooperation advances issues of mutual interest, and while its effectiveness on more controversial issues has been mixed, it has at least provided a barometer of public concern. JPAC has experienced challenges and frustrations, and the report details these. In many ways, for example, JPAC's relations with environmental officials from Canada, Mexico and the US have evolved into a highly formalized, even ossified discourse. JPAC can become mired in technical details, and the challenge of fulfilling a dual role of public watchdog and strategic partner has led some to criticize JPAC's occasionally antagonistic approach to Council even as others challenge its willingness to collaborate and compromise. The report concludes that - despite this inherent tension - JPAC has been a useful public monitor, a sounding board for trade and environment issues, and a structured public point of entry to the CEC. It is a unique approach to public participation in trade accords, and warrants further study as a model.
Keywords: Environmental Law, Trade and Environment, Democracy and Trade, Democratic Dialogue, NAFTA, International Law
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