NAFTA Super Highway Raises Environmental, Trade Concerns

A little-known project of the Bush Administration may have substantial ramifications for the future of the North American continent. According to the conservative news weekly Human Events, Canada, Mexico, and the United States have signed a trilateral agreement under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to begin constructing a 10-lane “super highway” from Mexico to Canada as early as 2007. The limited-access road and rail line, to be built along Interstate 35, would allow shippers to transport goods that arrive at the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas directly to a Kansas City, Missouri, customs stop and eventually on to Canada.

The planned super highway raises potential environmental, security, and trade risks. The Texas Department of Transportation has released an environmental impact statement on the project, but some experts fear that insufficient attention is being paid to possible environmental implications, including increased air and noise pollution and the disruption of wildlife habitat. There is also concern that the new corridor will create security risks by further opening the U.S.-Mexican border to terrorists.

According to State of the World 2006 contributor Aaron Cosbey, international trade organizations are moving towards promoting the simultaneous goals of environmental, economic, and social progress. But, says Cosbey, organizations with cross-border mandates, such as NAFTA, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and United Nations agencies, will need to work together to ensure that economics is not the only factor determining trade policy.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.