Why we need to care about a Trade Deal with the US if we care about plastic pollution

Resulting from Brexit and the UK’s current precarious position, there are real concerns about lower food standards as well as threats to the NHS and other public services and environmental/animal welfare protections that new deals with the US raise.  In this hugely important article, Global Justice Macclesfield member Natalie Abbott explains another real danger of eroded efforts to reduce plastic pollution if a US-UK trade deal does go ahead.  If you feel as moved by this news as we do, please follow the link to a petition about the UK-US Trade Deal at the bottom of her article:


In the context of Brexit new free trade agreements (FTAs) have become politically significant and negotiations for a US-UK trade deal are well underway. There are numerous reasons for concern regarding the potential for such a deal to impact our food and animal welfare standards, environmental protections and public services like the NHS.


One less publicised aspect could be our efforts to tackle the problem of plastic pollution as demonstrated by an example from Canada under their FTA with the US and Mexico (USMCA).

Canada have recently sought to tackle plastic pollution with a proposed ban on many single use plastics by 2021 as well as regulating plastics as toxic under its environmental protection act.

USMCA came into force this summer and already a coalition of US chemical, fossil fuel and food packaging industries have used the deal to challenge Canada’s proposals – this despite a chapter in USMCA on the environment and a statement to the effect that each country will take steps to reduce marine pollution.


Modern trade deals include “regulatory cooperation” clauses and “investor state dispute settlement” (ISDS) chapters through which the ability of governments to enact policy for social or environmental reasons can be undermined. Regulatory cooperation sounds very positive but in reality offers more opportunities for influence to the industry being regulated and less opportunity for national governments to take local decisions. ISDS is a mechanism of corporate courts through which corporations can sue governments that enact policy detrimental to their profits. The remit of the adjudicators in these courts is purely investment law; environmental and human rights aspects are outside their remit and thus not taken into consideration.


Given the plastics crisis we face (according to the UN the last 10 years have seen more plastics produced than the whole of the 20th century) we can’t afford to allow delays to measures to tackle the problem.

We need to seek assurance from our elected representatives that a UK-US Trade Deal will not undermine our efforts especially as the issue has gained wide concern amongst British citizens.

For more information:



A petition about the UK-US Trade Deal is available here:


Natalie Abbott   Global Justice Macclesfield       [email protected]