NAFTA, environmental policy, trade agreements, punctuated equilibrium model


The U.S. has incorporated environmental policies into its all free trade agreements since it negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the early 1990s. The inclusion of environmental policies represented a major shift in trade policy but the environmental policies have not drastically changed in subsequent trade agreements over the past 25 years despite the continued involvement of environmental constituencies and policymakers. The punctuated equilibrium model provides the analytical framework for understanding the factors that gave rise to the drastic policy shift under NAFTA as well as the subsequent policy stasis, in order to inform future policymaking efforts. Based on this analysis, it appears that environmentalists and policymakers will likely be able to maintain the environmental policy status quo within the trade policy domain but should consider another policy arena for advancing their new environmental policy priorities.

Publication Date

May 2021



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