US-Mexico Lapaz Agreement on Waste Exports (LAPAZ)
CASE NUMBER: 42
CASE MNEMONIC: LAPAZ
CASE NAME: Lapaz Agreement
1. The Issue
The Agreement to Cooperate in the Solution of Environmental
Problems in the Border Area between the United States and Mexico
(hereafter the "La Paz Agreement" or "Agreement") was the first
step in both country's attempts to improve the environmental
quality of their vast common border. The original agreement was
the basis for further negotiations that resulted in several annexes
that outlined the responsibilities of the signatories. The most
important of these annexes was Annex III, which dealt with the
regulation of transboundary shipments of hazardous wastes and
substances. These annexes are now being implemented as part of
the NAFTA agreement.
The United States and Mexico share a vast border region that
has seen unprecedented economic development in the latter half of
this century. Many American companies moved part of their
manufacturing operations south of the border to take advantage of
cheap labor and less government regulation. As a result, the
border population and economy has grown considerably. The Mexican
maquilladoras, industries along the border with the United States,
grew from only 57 plants in 1966 to over 600 in 1983, employing
over 150,000 people. With such rapid growth, and Mexico's
inability to enforce environmental regulations, the ecology of the
border region is in serious jeopardy.
Recognizing this fact, the governments of the United States
and Mexico began working on an environmental cooperation agreement
in the early 1980s. The result was the La Paz Agreement signed on
August 14, 1983. The Agreement built upon the 1972 Declaration of
the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment which
"called upon nations to collaborate to resolve environmental
problems of common concern."
The 1983 Agreement established the basic framework for
cooperation and information exchange between the signatories. The
forms of cooperation included: coordination of national programs,
scientific and educational exchanges, environmental monitoring,
environmental impact assessment, and exchanges of information on
sources of pollution in respective territories. In addition, the
agreement outlined the scope of the "border area" as "100
kilometers on either side of the inland and maritime boundaries
between" the United States and Mexico.
To oversee the implementation of the provisions of the
Agreement and subsequent annexes, the Agreement designates a
national coordinator. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
was designated as the national coordinator for the United States
and the Secretaria de Desarrollo Urbano y Ecologia (SEDUE) was
assigned responsibility for the Agreement in Mexico.
Article 22 of the La Paz Agreement grants authority to the
Parties to adopt annexes to the original agreement. Both the
United States and Mexico have worked hard to negotiate further
provisions to strengthen their environmental cooperation. Most
notable among the additions to the original agreement is Annex III,
the Agreement of Cooperation Regarding the Transboundary Shipments
of Hazardous Wastes and Substances.
Annex III seeks to ensure that the transboundary shipments of
hazardous wastes and substances between the United States and
Mexico are conducted in such a manner as to "reduce or prevent the
risks to public health, property and environmental quality." It
should be noted that Annex III is not a hazardous waste trade ban;
merely a regulatory agreement with the following provisions.
1. The Parties agreed to definitions of both hazardous wastes
and substances based on their own domestic laws.
2. The United States and Mexico state that they will seek
to enforce their national environmental laws "to the
3. Both signatories agreed that an exporting nation must
notify the importing country in writing of any shipments
of hazardous waste across national borders.
4. The importing country has the right to refuse entry of
any shipment of waste it feels is environmentally
5. The written notification must contain information
about the contents and quantity of waste, the point of
entry, the means of transport, and a description of the
treatment and storage of the waste.
6. The exporting country must readmit any shipment of waste
for any reason.
In addition to these regulatory provisions, Annex III also
provides a mechanism for the parties to exchange information and
provide "mutual assistance" in the enforcement of environmental
laws in the border region.
The La Paz Agreement and Annex III are a first step in
controlling the movement of hazardous waste. Although it does not
ban the shipment of wastes between the United States and Mexico,
the regulatory framework should prove effective in monitoring waste
shipments, and hopefully, with increased cooperation in enforcement
of environmental laws, reduce the amount of illegal waste trade.
This should be hastened by the signing of the NAFTA agreement (see
3. Related Cases
(1): Forum = NAFTA
(2): Bio-geography = DRY
(3): Environmental Problem = Pollution Land [POLL]
4. Draft Author: Kevin Cuddy
B. LEGAL Filters
5. Discourse and Status: AGReement and COMPlete
Agreement Between the United States of America and the United
Mexican States on Cooperation for the Protection and Improvement of
the Environment in the Border Area and Annex III, The Agreement of
Cooperation Regarding the Transboundary Shipments of Hazardous
Wastes and Hazardous Substances.
6. Forum and Scope: NAFTA and REGION
The La Paz Agreement was negotiated bilaterally between the
United States and Mexico under the auspices of the Declaration of
the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. This
agreement will no doubt become part of the NAFTA and may be
superseded by NAFTA in some places. Therefore, it may well apply
to Canada at some point in the future. Significant waste trade
exists between the United States and Canada.
Bi-lateral agreements between United States and Canada and the
United States and Mexico were the first international agreements to
focus specifically on transboundary movements of hazardous waste.
The United States and Canada signed an agreement on October 28,
1986 to control the transboundary movement, both export and import,
of hazardous waste between the two countries. The agreement
requires a Notice of Intent to export and the receiving country has
30 days from the date it receives the notice to either reject or
accept the shipment. No answer to the Notice of Intent implies
consent. The Office of International Activities (OIA) is
responsible for sending notices directly to Environment Canada and
may send a letter of Acknowledgement to the exporter. All
shipments must comply to the receiving country's regulatory
requirements. Also, the agreement includes information exchange,
monitoring, spot-checking of transboundary shipments, and transit
shipments through Canada from one U.S. point to another.
The United States and Mexico signed an agreement on November
12, 1986, to control the transboundary shipments of hazardous waste
and hazardous substances. The agreement covers imports and exports
of hazardous waste from each country and transit shipments through
the countries. Special provisions cover hazardous waste produced
by U.S. companies based in Mexico (see BORDER case).
The Notice of Intent to export is required. The receiving
country has 45 days to respond with denial or consent. Consent to
receive the proposed exports must be given by Mexico and it is not
implied if a response is not given within the 45 day period. Also,
OIA must send notices through the State Department and the U.S.
Embassy in Mexico. Transit movement of hazardous waste requires
notification, but there is no time frame required for response.
The generation of hazardous waste by U.S. companies operating
in Mexico requires a different process. In this case, raw
materials are moved into Mexico "in-bond" for processing. Any
hazardous waste created as a result of processing must be returned
to the U.S. for disposal. This hazardous waste is not considered
to be an import into the United States because its origin is in a
U.S. company. A presidential decree by the Mexican president can
halt any import of hazardous waste into Mexico. Also, current
legal hazardous waste exports to Mexico are allowed only for
7. Decision Breadth: 3 (USA, Canada, and Mexico)
8. Legal Standing: TREATY
C. GEOGRAPHIC Filters
9. Geographic Locations
a. Geographic Domain : North America [NAMER]
b. Geographic Site : Western North America [WNAMER]
c. Geographic Impact : NAFTA
10. Sub-National Factors: NO
11. Type of Habitat: DRY
For the most part the agreement applies to the arid U.S.-
Mexico border region.
D. TRADE Filters
12. Type of Measure: Import Standards [IMSTD]
13. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRect
14. Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact
a. Directly Related : YES WASTE
b. Indirectly Related : NO
c. Not Related : NO
d. Process Related : YES Pollution Land [POLL]
15. Trade Product Identification: WASTE
16. Economic Data
U.S.-Mexico trade statistics for 1986 show U.S. imports from
Mexico of $17.3 billion and U.S. exports to Mexico of $12.4
billion. Mexican maquilladoras in 1988 had a total of 1,481 plants
and employed 393,550 people, mostly women.
17. Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness: LOW
The measure will add marginally to costs but without proper
enforcement on the Mexican side, little impact will occur.
18. Industry Sector: WASTE
19. Exporter and Importer: USA and MEXico
E. ENVIRONMENT Filters
20. Environmental Problem Type: Pollution Land [POLL]
21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species
Diversity: 4,569 higher plants per
10,000 km/sq (Mexico)
22. Resource Impact and Effect: LOW and PRODuct
23. Urgency and Lifetime: LONG and 100s of years
24. Substitutes: Biodegradable [BIODG] products
VI. OTHER Factors
25. Culture: NO
While it is difficult to discern a cultural impact of the
maquiladora's, the gender impact is clear. Women comprise a great
majority of the jobs in these firms and the impact on them is
debated. Some believe that the firms exploit women. Others
believe that under U.S. business codes of conduct, worker pay,
treatment, and services are much better than offered by Mexican
26. Trans-Border: YES
This is essentially about a trans-border problem between the
United States and Mexico. Often, wastes dumped in Mexico return
back to the United States via the movement of air or water.
27. Human Rights: YES
U.S. waste dumping in Mexico has been linked to abnormal
cancer rates and increased rates of child and infant mortality.
28. Relevant Literature
International Legal Materials 22: 1025-1032.
International Legal Materials 26: 15-37.
Kiss, Alexandre. "The International Control of Transboundary
Movement of Hazardous Waste." Texas International Law
Journal (Summer 1991): 521-539.
Scramstad, Barbara. "Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste
from the United States in Mexico." Transnational Law
Journal. (Spring 1991): 253+.
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