Nervi, Laura. Determinantes, problemas y desafíos en salud ambiental en el contexto de la integración económica en Norteamérica. [Determinants, problems and challenges in environmental health in the context of economic integration in North America .] In: Bronfman M., Castro R., eds. Salud, cambio social y política: Perspectivas desde América Latina. [Health, social change and politics: Perspectives from Latin America .] Mexico City , Adamex; 1999. p. 465-492.

Objectives: To analyze characteristics of the globalization process, with special focus on North America ; to consider the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as it pertains to the environment; and to analyze several specific environmental problems.

Methodology: Analytical and interpretive.

Results: The author defines and analyzes five central characteristics of the globalization process: 1) growth in the power of transnational corporations, 2) formation of blocs of nations that argue against such world economic dominance, 3) technological innovation, 4) hegemony of the neoliberal model based on the economic and environmental principles of neoclassical theory, and 5) neoliberal thought as a common, generalized sentiment.

This chapter provides an historical analysis of the integration process in North America, first between the United States and Canada (1988), and then with Mexico (1994). The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) favors investments and generally omits consideration of work conditions, labor law, and salaries in the three countries. The core principle of the treaty is to permit relatively unregulated commercial activity in a “free market,” which allows transnational corporations to control international commerce.

This chapter analyzes the relationship between NAFTA and the environment, emphasizing: a) costs to the environment and to environmental health of unequal integration; b) the differing standards maintained by corporations in different countries; c) the exportation and importation of risks; d) the exportation of U.S. environmental health policies to the other treaty countries; e) disincentives which impede development of strategies based on clean industry; f) decreased sovereignty within the peripheral countries over management of environmental problems; g) greater dependence of the peripheral countries on inferior technologies for control of environmental risks; and h) the shaping of a common attitude within the countries affected, according to which environmental degradation (with its consequences for health) is the inevitable price of development.

Conclusions: NAFTA has produced major environmental and environmental health problems. Progressive forces should develop several lines of action to confront these problems.

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