52 E LR 10 312 ENVIRONMENTAL LAW REPORTER 42022
In January 1994, the North American Free Trade Agree-
ment (NAFTA) between Canada, the United States, and
Mexico entered into force.¹ Immediately after NAF TA, the
North American Agreement on Environmental Coopera-
tion (NAA EC), signed by the same countries, entered into
force as a parallel agreement to NAFTA.² Since the entry
into force of the NAAEC , the United States has negotiated
TPAs that include the creation of bodies to address sub-
missions from natural persons or legal entities that believe
that one of the countries of the agreement is not eectively
enforcing its environmental laws.
In order to implement these measures in the various
TPAs, bodies with dierent scopes and levels have been
created. However, the processes they carry out have sig-
nicant similarities. e following is a brief review of the
agreements in the region that include secretariats t hat per-
form the public submission processes.
A. North America Region
As mentioned above, the NAAEC entered into force in
1994, thus becoming an environmental agreement with
a close relationship to NAFTA. e consequent coopera-
tion among the countries encouraged the protection and
improvement of the environment, su stain able develop-
ment, and strengthening a nd enhancement of environ-
mental regulations, among other aspects.
e NAAEC incorporated, in its Article 14, a process
called “Submissions on Enforcement Matters,” which
provides any person or organization with no governmen-
tal connection, resident or based in Canada, the United
States, or Mexico, a process through which they can le
a submission if they believe that a Party to the agreement
is failing to enforce its environmental laws.³ erefore,
“NAAEC’s three Parties created this entirely new process
to give the public a voice in international environmental
oversight through establishing a novel international ‘soft’
Article 8 of the NA AEC established the Commission for
Environmental Cooperation (CEC), which is to comprise a
council, a secretariat, and the Joint Public Advisory Com-
mittee. e council is the governing body of the CEC, a nd
is composed of the highest-ranking environmental authori-
ties (cabinet-level or equivalent representatives) of Canada,
Mexico, and the United States. As a governing body, the
1. North American Free Trade Agreement, Dec. 17, 1992, 32 I.L.M. 289
2. North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, Sept. 13,
1993, 32 I.L.M. 1480 [hereinafter NAAEC].
3. C P C A [C E-
C], D P P-
R A E L A
[G S E M U A-
14 15 N A A E-
4. Tracy Hester, Designed for Distrust: Revitalizing NAFTA’s Environmental
Submissions Process, 28 G. E’ L. R. 29, 32 (2015).
council over sees the implementation of the NA AEC a nd
serves as a forum for discussing environmental issues.
e CEC Secretariat provides technica l, administrative,
and operational support to the council. Within the secre-
tariat is the SEM Unit, which is responsible for receiving
and processing submissions.
e rst submission was led in 1995. To date, a total of
101 submissions have been led by way of this mechani sm.
Of the total number of submissions, 33 are from Canada,
13 from the United States, and 53 from Mexico. Addition-
ally, two submissions are from Canada and the United
States together. It should be noted that there are submis-
sions involving more than one country. Of the total num-
ber of submissions, 24 factual records have been prepared.
e new USMCA, which entered into force on July
1, 2020, does not produce changes in broad terms with
respect to the submissions for the eective enforcement of
the Parties’ environmental laws.
B. Central America-Dominican Republic-United
e free trade agreement between Cost a Rica, the Domin-
ican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicara-
gua, and the United States (Dominican Republic-Central
America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR)) entered
into force for the countries Party to the agreement on vari-
ous dates in 2006.
Article 17.7 of the CAFTA-DR, “Submissions on
Enforcement Matters,” sets forth in paragraph 1 that “[a]
ny person of a Party may le a submission asserting that a
Party is fail ing to eectively enforce its environmental laws.
Such submissions shall be led with a secreta riat or other
appropriate body (‘secretariat’) that the Parties designate.”
In order to implement Articles 17.7 and 17.8 of the
CAFTA-DR, the Parties signed the “Agreement Estab-
lishing a Secretariat for Environmental Matters Under the
Dominican Republic-Central A merica-United States Free
Trade Agreement.” rough Article 1 of this agreement,
the Parties established the Secretariat for Environmental
Matters—the unit in cha rge of receiving and processing
submissions—located in the Secreta riat for Central Ameri-
can Economic Integration’s (SIECA’s) facilities, headquar-
tered in Guatemala City.
According to Claudia Ortiz:
Submissions are not an environmenta l “complaint” with
the purpose of sanct ioning the State or a company that
5. Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Registry of Submissions,
(last visited Oct. 2021).
6. United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Nov. 30, 2018 (entered into
force July 1, 2020) [hereinafter USMCA].
7. Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, May 28,
2004, 43 I.L.M. 514 [hereinafter CAFTA-DR].
8. Agreement Establishing a Secretariat for Environmental Matters Under the
Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement,
July 27, 2006 (entered into force Aug. 26, 2006).
Copyright © 2022 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®, http://www.eli.org, 1-800-433-5120.