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International Cooperation

EPA's Role in International Trade

Meeting of the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC). Official USTR photo. 
Global trade presents economic and policy opportunities and challenges. EPA works with domestic and international partners to address policy challenges, reduce the environmental impacts, and maximize the benefits of trade for U.S. industry.

EPA Role in the Trade Agreement Process

Developing Environment-related Provisions in Proposed Trade Agreements

EPA works with the USTR and other government agencies to develop and review environment-related provisions of proposed trade agreements and build the capacity of U.S. trading partners to develop, implement, and enforce sound environmental standards.
By encouraging the implementation of such standards abroad, EPA and USTR aim to:
  1. minimize the domestic effects of cross-boundary pollutants, and
  2. ensure that U.S. industry has a level playing field on which to compete.
This includes reviewing and making decisions regarding the content and implementation of environmental elements of the agreements, including environmental chapters in the thirteen trade agreements featured to the right.

Implementing Trade Related Environmental Activities

EPA works with the State Department, trade partners and others to develop projects and programs that implement environmental capacity building activities provided for under trade agreements and can serve as the basis for environmental capacity building, technical assistance and knowledge sharing. These collaborative international efforts increase the effectiveness of U.S. trade agreements and create markets for environmental technology.
For more information on EPA-specific activities, please see the following links:

Reviewing Environmental Effects of Proposed Agreements

EPA works with USTR, the President's Council on Environmental Quality and other federal partners to review the effects on the domestic environment that could result from implementation of the agreement.  Executive Order 13141 and its implementing guidelines provide the formal basis for conducting these reviews.
Learn more about:

United States-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA)

In 2019, the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Free Trade Agreement was finalized to update and replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which itself had been finalized in 1992 and operational as of 1994.  With entry into force on July 1, 2020, and with combined trilateral trade flows of over $1.2 trillion, the USMCA creates the largest free trade area in the world outside of the European Union.

The USMCA features the strongest, most advanced and most comprehensive set of environmental obligations of any U.S. trade agreement.  In contrast to the NAFTA, the USMCA environmental obligations are incorporated into the trade agreement itself rather than in a side agreement on environmental cooperation, as was done with NAFTA.  Fully enforceable and subject to dispute resolution, the USMCA environmental obligations:

  • require the Parties to effectively enforce their environmental laws,
  • promote the protection of coastal and marine environments,
  • seek to improve air quality,
  • ensure market access for U.S. environmental technologies, goods and services,
  • promote conservation and combats trafficking in wildlife, timber, and fish,
  • require Parties to fulfill obligations under seven multilateral environmental agreements,
  • promote public participation in implementation, and
  • complement a modernized trilateral environmental cooperation agreement, replacing the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC).

Once the USMCA enters into force and replaces NAFTA and NAAEC on July 1, 2020, EPA will continue to work with a number of the institutions established originally by NAFTA and related agreements to address environmental issues in the North American region.  This includes the mechanism, originally created in the NAAEC, allowing any non-governmental organization or person in any of the three countries to assert that one of the Parties (i.e., the United States, Canada, and Mexico) is failing to enforce its environmental laws.  In addition, EPA will continue to work through the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) to address regional environmental concerns, help prevent potential trade and environmental conflicts, promote the effective enforcement of environmental law, and to monitor the environmental effects of the USMCA, as well as the North American Development Bank (NADB). 

Learn more about:

Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee

The Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC) provides policy advice to the EPA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on issues pertaining to the nexus between the environment and trade. TEPAC is comprised of representatives of non-profit and private sector organizations.
Co-hosted by the U.S. Trade Representative and the EPA Administrator, TEPAC meets twice a year. Members are briefed on environment and trade related issues and can provide input and guidance to the Administration and members of Congress. EPA uses this forum to update, and receive feedback from, TEPAC members on environmental issues of importance.


For additional information on EPA's trade programs, contact:
Brian Muehling
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2660R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460