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What They Are Saying: USTR Announces USMCA Environment Consultations with Mexico

February 11, 2022

WASHINGTON – The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) yesterday announced that it is requesting Environment Consultations with the Government of Mexico under the Environment Chapter of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA).  The first environmental consultations request under the USMCA relates to the protection of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus), the prevention of illegal fishing, and trafficking of totoaba fish (Totoaba macdonaldi).

Here is what they are saying about the announcement:

Politico: U.S., Mexico to open talks on illegal fishing threatening dolphin species

“The U.S. and Mexico will begin talks under the North American free trade agreement to address illegal fishing that is threatening an endangered dolphin species, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced Thursday. The nations will open consultations under the environment chapter of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, USTR said, the first talks under that provision of the trade deal that updated NAFTA in 2020.” [02/10/22]

Bloomberg: U.S. Requests Mexico Talks on Marine Environment Obligations

“The U.S. requested consultations with Mexico due to concerns that the nation is failing to meet its environmental obligations for protecting marine life under their trade deal. Mexico has adopted laws to prevent illegal fishing in the upper Gulf of California, the trafficking of protected species such as the totoaba, and to protect and conserve the vaquita porpoise. But available evidence raises concerns that the nation may not be meeting its commitments under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, the U.S. Trade Representative said on Thursday.” [02/10/22]

Reuters: U.S. seeks trade talks with Mexico over endangered vaquita porpoise

“The United States is seeking the first-ever consultations with Mexico over its environmental obligations under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, including protection of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise, U.S. trade officials said Thursday. The formal talks - which could ultimately result in trade sanctions - will also focus on Mexico's obligations to prevent illegal fishing and trafficking of the critically endangered totoaba fish, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement.” [02/10/22]

AP: US files 1st USMCA environment case on Mexico over porpoise

“The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office filed the first environmental complaint against Mexico Thursday for failing to protect the critically endangered vaquita marina, the world’s smallest porpoise. The office said it had asked for “environment consultations” with Mexico, the first such case it has filed under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade pact. Consultations are the first step in the dispute resolution process under the trade agreement, which entered into force in 2020. If not resolved, it could eventually lead to trade sanctions.” [02/10/22]

Inside U.S. Trade: U.S. requests USMCA talks with Mexico over vaquita protections

“The United States will request consultations with Mexico under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement over what it claims are Mexico’s failure to enforce environmental laws designed to prevent illegal fishing, which has led to the near-extinction of the vaquita, the most endangered porpoise in the world. The consultation request is the first-ever under USMCA’s environment chapter, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.” [02/10/22]

Center for Biological Diversity: U.S. Launches Trade Complaint Over Mexico’s Failure to Protect Vaquita

“This is a big move that could save these little porpoises from extinction,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Illegal fishing is out of control in Mexican waters, and the vaquita is paying the highest possible price. We’re glad the U.S. government is taking Mexico to task for violating its environmental obligations and threatening the vaquita’s existence.” [02/10/22]

Animal Welfare Institute: US Launches Trade Complaint Over Mexico’s Failure to Protect Vaquita

“For the past 25 years, Mexico has repeatedly broken its promises to address illegal totoaba fishing, causing vaquita numbers to plummet as lawlessness and corruption thrive in the Upper Gulf of California,” said DJ Schubert, wildlife biologist at the Animal Welfare Institute. “We welcome today’s action by Ambassador Tai, and urge administration officials to send an unequivocal message to Mexico that it will be held accountable for hastening the vaquita’s extinction.” [02/10/22]

International Fund for Animal Welfare: the USTR requests environment consultations with Mexico to ensure vaquita protections are met

“Today’s announcement by the USTR—initiating the first environment consultation under the USMCA—is an important sign that the US is committed to ensuring successful implementation of the environment chapter. Engaging in open and honest dialogue with trading partners and enforcing the mutual commitments made by countries is a critical tool through which to advance global environment goals and conserve imperiled species. Vaquita occupy a very small range in the northern Gulf of Mexico which makes them particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and other human disturbances. Every individual vaquita is critical to the survival of the species and we applaud the USTR for working with Mexico to find solutions and ensure enforcement across its fisheries.” [02/10/22]

Natural Resources Defense Council: U.S. Launches Trade Complaint Over Mexico’s Failure to Protect Vaquita

“The legal and illegal trade in shrimp and fish from Mexico has been ravaging the vaquita porpoise for decades,” said Zak Smith, director of NRDC’s international wildlife conservation program. “It’s been made possible by the framework of poorly designed and enforced trade agreements. Today’s action by the U.S. trade representative signals the possibility of a new approach to tackling environmental destruction caused by international trade. It’s about time and the US should take strong actions against Mexico for pushing the vaquita to extinction.” [02/10/22]

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal [D-MA-01]: “Today’s announcement demonstrates why Democrats in Congress insisted that the USMCA include enforceable environmental commitments – those provisions allow the USTR to make this kind of request. Thanks to the USMCA, we now have stronger tools at our disposal to protect vulnerable wildlife and to prevent environmentally harmful practices. I applaud Ambassador Tai for making this request and I appreciate the Biden Administration’s commitment to implementing and enforcing the agreement as Congress intended.” [Statement, 02/10/22]

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden [D-OR]: “USTR is doing the right thing to protect endangered species and hold Mexico to the promises made in USMCA. Enforcing our trade agreements is critical to ensuring the U.S. gets what we bargained for.” [Tweet, 02/10/22]

Senator Tom Carper [D-DE]: “We set out provisions in the USMCA to ensure our allies protect endangered species—and to give us enforcement powers when they don't. I applaud @AmbassadorTai for holding our trading partners to account, and for protecting species like the vaquita porpoise along the way.” [Tweet, 02/10/22]

Reuters Science News: “The United States is seeking the first-ever consultations with Mexico over its environmental obligations under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, including protection of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise, U.S. trade officials said Thursday.” [Tweet, 02/10/22]

Animal Welfare Institute: “Illegal #totoaba fishing in Mexico has caused the #vaquita’s near-extinction. Today, @USTradeRep @AmbassadorTai formally requested environmental consultations with Mexico—the first step toward sanctioning the country for failing to protect the vaquita.” [Tweet, 02/10/22]

Center for Biological Diversity: “Illegal fishing is out of control in Mexican waters, and the #vaquita is paying the highest possible price. We're glad the U.S. government is taking Mexico to task for violating its environmental obligations and threatening the vaquita's existence.” [Tweet, 02/10/22]

Andrea Shalal, Reuters: “@USTradeRep seeks trade talks with Mexico over endangered #vaquita porpoise #totoaba fish” [Tweet, 02/10/22]

Edward Alden, Foreign Policy: “I am so pleased to see @USTradeRep pursuing this one. I want my grandchildren to be able to see a vaquita some day.” [Tweet, 02/10/22]