Global Trade Not Paying for its Damages

The controversial trade agreement, NAFTA, is now being renegotiated at the insistence of President Trump.  Everything seems to be on the table but there’s one big thing that isn’t and should be. It’s that trade itself, which necessitates the transport of goods which spews out carbon emissions, has an ecological footprint.

Trade agreements note that attention must be paid to the environmental costs associated with production of goods for trade, or at least pretend to be paid, but they never admit that global trade, whatever its benefits real and alleged, is itself a threat to the planet.

Production of goods has shifted in recent times away from a single country source in favour of global supply chains where goods zip back and forth from one country to another and then back again. More transport is a problem unto itself.

With evidence of extreme climate change all around us, and accelerating, trade agreements must take account of this new reality and there must be regulations that do so. When corporations engaged in trade organize their supply chains, they must be required to pay for the cost to the planet of what they are doing.

Corporate cost efficiency is not enough. There has to a clause in trade agreements that requires calculation of the increased emission of carbon caused by an increase in trade and then requires that the companies pay a penalty sufficient to deter that.

More and more the problem with trade is that there is too much of it. This runs counter to conventional wisdom but must become the new norm.

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