Comparison of European Union vs. North American Free Trade Agreement

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The European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement are two separate organizations that act as ways for countries in the modern world deal with increasing globalization and the need for unity in times of economic downfall. Despite being set up for similar purposes, EU and NAFTA have many differences. These differences can be categorized into a few main ideas: the extent of power these organizations have over the countries involved; their involvement in environmental issues; and their views on the death penalty.

In the European Union, there is a European Parliament that makes the legislative and appointment decisions for the EU. There is also a President of the European Parliament, elected by members of parliament. The President serves a 2.5 year term. Eligible voters in member countries vote candidates into positions within the EU Parliament. “Each member state has its own electoral laws and each one decides what day its citizens will go to the polls during the four-day election period” (European Parliament Elections Committee.) They also have a significant amount of members in the European Parliament. Since Croatia became a member in July 2013, there are 766 members “but this number [was] scaled down at the 2014 elections to 751 and will stay at that level in the future. These MEPS will represent over 500 million citizens in 28 member states. The seats are allocated among the various states, by the EU treaties, on the basis of ‘degressive proportionality,’ meaning countries with larger populations have more seats than smaller ones but the latter have more seats than strict proportionality would imply” (European Parliament Elections Committee.) In addition, the EU has certain agencies that are in charge of certain issues such as the European Institute for Innovation and Technology as well as the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

In stark contrast, NAFTA is made up of various organizations and committees rather than a parliament. These organizations do not require election into their positions. Some of these organizations include: the Free Trade Commission, which encompasses the FTC Secretariat, and FTC committees and working groups within it; the Commission of Environmental Cooperation; Commission for Environmental Cooperation; North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation; and the Border Environment Cooperation Commissions. These organizations all play separate roles in separate arenas, ranging from trade to environmental protection to labor issues as well as immigration issues, human rights, and many others.

The North American Free Trade Agreement is an agreement based on labor and international trade between Canada, the USA, and Mexico. In addition to creating provisions for labor and trade, NAFTA has also made decisions based on environmental and agricultural issues through an organization called the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC.) Many have actually criticized NAFTA and the President of the United States for not properly addressing environmental issues. This is because “Free trade deals have high costs in unintended consequences for the environment, people’s way of life, and local sovereignty…’The President has long made clear that NAFTA is in need of an update on key elements, including labor and environment provisions. That is exactly what we are doing through [the Trans-Pacific Partnership], where we are pursuing an outcome that would modernize NAFTA to include enforceable environmental protection in the core of the agreement’” (McAuliff.) NAFTA clearly has to update their environmental policy and modernize in a greener way.

In comparison, the EU claims to have the world’s best environmental policy, as exemplified on their website where they plainly say, “The EU has some of the world’s highest environmental standards. Environment policy helps green the EU economy, protect nature, and safeguard the health and quality of life of people living in the EU.” In the EU’s environmental policy manuscript, they talk about evolving strategy as a main part of their environmental policy. “The major environmental challenges facing Europe have evolved since the early days of the European environmental policymaking. In the 1970s and the 1980s the focus was on traditional environmental themes such as protecting species and improving the quality of the air we breathe or the water we drink by reducing emissions of pollutants. Now, emphasis is on a more systematic approach that takes account of links between various themes and their global dimensions… It involves ensuring that other areas such as agriculture, energy, transport, fisheries, regional development, research, innovation and external aid take fully into account the environmental consequences of their policy and funding decisions” (European Union.) Though this is a biased source, I would say that it is a clue into the fact that the European Union is more environmentally conscious.

The US is known internationally for our aggressive use of capital punishment, despite the fact that most of the rest of the modern world is against the use of execution as punishment for typical crimes. “Over two-thirds of the countries in the world - 141 - have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. In 2010 the overwhelming majority of all known executions took place in five countries – China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen, and the United States” (Amnesty International.) The USA is the main player in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which means that NAFTA approves of the death penalty. Again, the European Union contrasts NAFTA. “The European Union holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty; its abolition is a key objective for the Union’s human rights policy. Abolition is, of course, also a pre-condition for entry into the Union” (European Union External Action.)

Despite the similarities between North American and European cultures and peoples as well as the similarities between intentions of NAFTA and EU, NAFTA and EU are extremely different. An obvious difference is among moral policy regarding the death penalty and the environment, as well as basic structure.

Works Cited & Referenced

"COMMISSION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION." CEC. Commission for Environmental Cooperation, 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2015. <>."Death Penalty Facts." (n.d.): n. pag. AIUSA Death Penalty Abolition Campaign. Amnesty International, May 2012. Web. 1 Apr. 2015. <>."EU Policy on Death Penalty." European Union. European Union External Action Service, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015. <>."European Elections 2014." European Parliament – Elections 2014. European Parliament Elections Committee, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015. <>.European Union. European Commission. The European Union Explained: Environment. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.McAuliff, Michael. "NAFTA Report Warns Of Trade Deal Environmental Disasters." The Huffington Post., 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2015. <>.United States of America. United States General Accounting Office. General Government Division. North American Free Trade Agreement Structure and Status of Implementing Organizations. By William F. Clinger, Al McCandless, Steven Schiff, John Mica, Rob Portman, and Deborah Pryce. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

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