Frequently Asked Questions
The decision to negotiate these agreements flows from the decision to negotiate an interim bilateral free trade agreement as a bridge to NAFTA accession. Both Parties agreed that a commitment to environmental and labour cooperation, along with the effective enforcement of domestic laws should go hand and hand with trade liberalization.
The Agreement on Environmental Cooperation is modeled on the NAFTA environmental side agreement and contains all of its major features. It is designed to facilitate potential Chilean accession to the NAFTA. The Agreement commits Canada and Chile to the effective enforcement of environmental laws and contains mechanisms to help ensure those commitments are kept. It also commits Canada and Chile to increased environmental cooperation through establishment of a Canada-Chile Commission on Environmental Cooperation. This Commission will be organizationally and functionally similar to the NAFTA Environment Commission and will develop an annual program of cooperative work.
The broad objective of the Agreement is to foster the protection of the environment in the two countries and to promote sustainable development based on cooperation. In order to achieve these objectives the Parties have to effectively enforce their environmental laws and regulations through appropriate governmental action (e.g. monitoring compliance, promoting environmental audits, training inspectors, etc.). In recognition of Chile's need for a transition period of time to modernize its system of environmental laws, the application of the enforcement provisions to Chilean laws will be phased in over a period of two years. The Agreement lists roughly 160 laws which will be immediately covered. All laws must be covered by July 1999, and Chile has to present Canada with a schedule indicating when the Agreement will apply to the remaining laws. It is an important step that will allow Chile to have clear and modern regulations which are also easier to comply with and enforce.
This Agreement strengthens bilateral environmental cooperation and builds on the existing Canada-Chile MOU on Environmental Cooperation. The Agreement can help strengthen the Chilean environmental management system and promote Canadian environmental technologies and services. Extending the NAFTA package of agreements into this bilateral with Chile reinforces the Canadian position that accession to the NAFTA means accession to the environmental and labour side agreements as well. The NAFTA package presents a model for promoting trade-based sustainable development that links economic opportunity, labour responsibility and environmental responsibility.
Have the Provinces approved the Agreements with Chile? What role will they play in their implementation?
The provinces were consulted as the agreements were negotiated. While the agreements bind only the federal government for now, provinces are invited to join in the program of cooperative activities, along with other stakeholders. We will also encourage the provinces to sign an intergovernmental agreement that would enable them to enjoy all of the benefits of the agreement with Chile.
What are the benefits to Chile in signing a Free Trade Agreement and the two Side Agreements with Canada?
From a Chilean point of view, this is very important for several reasons. It is the first free trade agreement that Chile signed with a developed country. With this, Chile will be in the forefront of a world tendency that, sooner or later, the country must face: the progressive incorporation of environmental considerations in trade and international relations. The Agreement on Environmental Cooperation contributes to the international recognition of Chile's environmental management framework, and the efforts of its civil society and institutions. The side Agreement will contribute to the policies of sustainable development promoted by the Government, which reiterates the decision of having a modern and effective environmental legislation. The Agreement will prevent and help resolve potential environmental controversies. From the citizens' point of view, the Agreement represents a major step forward as it encourages the responsible participation of the population in ensuring proper enforcement of environmental legislation. The Agreement will be an incentive to modernize Chile's environmental legislation, which will undergo a major examination to decide what regulations are needed. It is a task the Chilean State must undertake, and is of interest to the citizens and the business sector. Finally, the Agreement opens the door for interesting cooperation opportunities through an increased exchange of information and joint projects.
Does the Side Agreement provide any guarantees which will lead to improved performance in the area of environment?
The environment side agreement provides an effective mechanism for both Canadian and Chilean citizens and interest groups to raise and resolve concerns about the effective enforcement of domestic environmental laws. Through the agreement, Canada has a unique opportunity through joint cooperative activities to participate actively in the further modernization of Chile's environmental laws and practices.
No, each country has the sovereignty to decide on its own environmental legislation and regulations. The Agreement recognizes the right of each Party to establish its own levels of domestic environmental protection. In addition, the Agreement does not empower a Party to undertake environmental law enforcement activities in the territory of the other Party. It is specified that the Parties will not use lax environmental regulations to attract investment.
Two things can happen:
A citizen or a non-governmental organization can file a submission that can eventually develop into a factual record for the consideration of the Council;
A Party may resort to a formal dispute resolution process where it alleges a persistent pattern of failure by the other Party to effectively enforce its environmental legislation.
Citizens and non-governmental organizations of the two countries will be able to present an official complaint (submission) should they believe governments have failed to effectively enforce environmental laws. These submissions will be evaluated at different stages, and must fulfill a series of criteria set out in article 14 of the Agreement. Upon recommendation of the Joint Submission Committee to the Council of the Commission, it may be decided to ask an expert to prepare a factual record containing all the relevant information. The final record is submitted to the Council and could be make public. The factual record does not have legal value and can not impose trade sanctions of any kind.
Can a citizen or a company be the object of a fine or a sanction?
No, the submissions and the complaints can only be made against the governments for not having applied their environmental legislation. Furthermore, it will not imply an increase of the costs for the private sector, as there are no new requirements nor additional procedures. The Parties can not impose environmental restrictions on their imports after the entry into force of the Agreement, nor intervene in any way in the productive processes of the other country.
The Agreement establishes the Canada-Chile Commission for Environmental Cooperation which will be composed of different bodies: a Council, a Joint Submission Committee, and a Public Advisory Committee. Two small National Secretariats to support the work of the Commission have been established within Environment Canada and Chile's National Commission for the Environment (CONAMA). Since existing entities and committees in each country will be used, costs will be minimal and will not create more bureaucracy.
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