NAFTA and TPP: Comparing Imaginaries of Sustainability

  • David Maull Harvard Summer School in Freiburg, Germany
Keywords: Sustainability, NAFTA, TPP, environmental


Debates about new free-trade agreements provide various societal actors with opportunities to communicate their visions of sustainable futures. This paper analyses the development of US environmental groups’ imaginaries of sustainability from discussions around the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s to current debates about the Transpacific Partnership. Using a qualitative Science and Technology studies approach, it examines statements, ‘fact sheets’, and reports published by environmental groups for (changing) patterns of mutually held visions of desirable futures in these two, isolated free-trade debates. The paper concludes that while argumentative continuity can be detected in the imagining of sustainability as an inclusive democratic concept, claims made against TPP increasingly focused on exclusively national concerns, the intrinsic value of nature, and the compatibility of economic growth with environmental protection.