About the Author: Rebecca Slocum serves in the Office of Environmental Policy in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
Free Trade Agreements, and their corresponding Environmental Cooperation Agreements, provide a powerful means for strengthening environmental protection, while simultaneously building democratic institutions and promoting economic growth. One strong example is the United States-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and corresponding CAFTA-DR Environmental Cooperation Agreement. Since CAFTA-DR environmental cooperation began in 2005, the governments of the CAFTA-DR countries -- Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua; and the United States -- have created cooperative programs to advance their common development goals by integrating government and civil society efforts to improve the environment in Central America and the Dominican Republic.
On January 27, 2011, the CAFTA-DR Environmental Affairs Council (EAC) held its fifth meeting in Washington, D.C., to review progress under the CAFTA-DR Environment Chapter and the status of cooperation activities developed under the Environmental Cooperation Agreement. The EAC is comprised of senior environmental officials from each participating country. The United States was represented by Assistant Secretary of State Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Environment and Natural Resources Mark Linscott.
During the meeting, which included a session with the public, Council members reported on progress in implementing the Environment Chapter and on their environmental achievements resulting from cooperation. They also reaffirmed their strong commitment to continue working together to preserve and protect the environment. At the meeting, Assistant Secretary Jones highlighted the positive impacts of CAFTA-DR environmental cooperation and the program's importance for trade-related environmental cooperation in general: "I believe our work together to implement the CAFTA-DR Environment Chapter and Environmental Cooperation Agreement represents international cooperation at its best and exemplifies President Obama's conviction, as expressed in his 2010 Trade Policy Agenda, that '[g]ood trade policy can accelerate the success of sound energy and environmental initiatives.'"
At a reception after the meeting, participants had the opportunity to interact with program implementers and country representatives. Banners and displays set up around the room showcased the results of environmental programs in the CAFTA-DR Region, to which the government of the United States has committed over $77 million since 2005. Some of these results include: bringing over 510,000 hectares of land under improved natural resource management and training over 2,000 farmers in best agricultural practices; providing assistance to over 340 companies in cleaner production technologies that promote energy and water conservation and reductions in waste, raw material use, and emissions; and training more than 13,000 people in enforcement and implementation of environmental laws, public participation, and cleaner production practices. To listen to an audio podcast of USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Mark Lopes' remarks at the reception, visit our Facebook page.
For the upcoming meeting of the CAFTA-DR Free Trade Commission meetings scheduled for February 23 in El Salvador, the EAC will report on progress towards implementing the Environment Chapter and the Environmental Cooperation Agreement. The next EAC meeting will take place in early 2012. For more information on CAFTA-DR environmental cooperation, visit www.caftadr-environment.org.