President Trump is executing on his top priorities. He’s getting more people working than ever before; driving significant investments by industry to strengthen the country’s workforce; freeing citizens, governments and businesses of overbearing, costly and burdensome regulations; and securing better trade deals that position the United States for long-term economic prosperity.
All of these priorities and more will be furthered by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), benefiting the American worker where the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) failed to deliver. Promising to create up to 589,000 new American jobs, lift wages for American workers, and make American business more competitive, the USMCA will create more balanced, reciprocal trade that supports high-paying jobs for the American people.
As secretary of the Department of Interior, I was pleased to join Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross earlier this year in Artesia, N.M., to highlight these important details and benefits. While the boon that USMCA will prove to the American economy is well known, less touted are the environmental obligations established in the agreement.
The environmental provisions have rightfully been hailed as the strongest, most advanced and most comprehensive of any United States trade agreement. Unlike NAFTA, the environmental obligations in the USMCA are incorporated into the core text of the agreement, fully enforceable and subject to the dispute resolution provisions of the agreement.
One of these, which bears on the work we do at Interior, promotes conservation and combats trafficking in wild animals and plants by setting penalties for transnational environmental crimes and enhancing the effectiveness of customs and border inspections of shipments. This will augment the work that Interior is doing to combat wildlife trafficking, which centers primarily on law enforcement and other types of economic support.
Wildlife trafficking is an illicit trade that is estimated to net between $7 billion and $23 billion per year, making it the fourth most lucrative global crime. The impacts of the trade are far-reaching as the trade is often closely linked to countless other kinds of organized crime, including human trafficking and terrorism.
Earlier this year and in coordination with the Justice Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) and the Drug Enforcement Administration worked together to prosecute the alleged leaders of such a criminal enterprise, led by Liberian national Moazu Kromah, who was extradited to the United States and charged with conspiracy to traffic in protected species and narcotics and money laundering.
Moazu is alleged to have led a network that had trafficked millions of dollars in rhino horns, elephant tusks and heroin around the world, and our collective efforts in targeting the wildlife trafficking aspects of his alleged illegal business helped lead to the indictment of Moazu and his alleged co-conspirators.
By helping ensure that environmental laws on trafficking are not skirted in order to facilitate lucrative environmental crimes, the USMCA is great news for global conservation and the security of citizens throughout the world.
These efforts would not have been possible without strong international partnerships, which are fundamental to capturing and prosecuting illegal wildlife traffickers. The USMCA will strengthen our partnerships with Canada and Mexico, furthering our mission in combatting this issue.
On President Trump’s watch, the OLE conducted almost 30,000 investigations, which resulted in over 1,100 years in prison and probation; almost $24 million in criminal fines and civil penalties; and inspected close to 570,800 legal trade shipments of wildlife or wildlife products worth more than $13 billion.
We are not stopping here as the OLE’s presence across the globe will be expanding with four new attachés in Hanoi, Nairobi, Brasilia and Stuttgart (USAFRICOM), and we are finalizing the details on a location in London. These locations will significantly further our mission in stopping the illegal trade of flora and fauna around the world, protect our nation from wildlife-related diseases and injurious species and curb other illegal activities that illegal wildlife traffickers are involved in.
The sheer scale of wildlife trafficking demonstrates why the obligations set down in the USMCA are so vital to eliminating that trafficking.
By committing to enforce environmental laws on wildlife trafficking, Canada and Mexico are helping combat the illegal trade of plants and animals throughout the world — prohibiting their transport through the Canadian, Mexican, and American economies. By helping ensure that environmental laws on trafficking are not skirted in order to facilitate lucrative environmental crimes, the USMCA is great news for global conservation and the security of citizens throughout the world.
The Department of the Interior is committed to combatting wildlife trafficking throughout the world, and the USMCA will help us in that effort. This agreement advances the United States’ trade and economic objectives, and it demonstrates that economic growth and conservation must go hand in hand in a stronger and more prosperous America.
Author: David Bernhardt