The North American Free Trade Agreement and Environment Debate: A Case Study on the Influence of Values, Beliefs, and Life Experiences in Government Agenda-Setting

by Perin, Laurie A.

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis examines the process of government agenda-setting by using the historic North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and environment debate, and the roles that Congressman Donald Pease, Congressman Sherrod Brown, and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur played within it, as case studies. It demonstrates that American trade policy never included environmental protection as a primary concern until the creation of NAFTA in the early-1990s. In order to analyze why the environment became a leading concern within the trade agenda in the early-1990s when it had never before represented a trade-related issue, this thesis employs Political Scientist John Kingdon's "agenda-setting" theory to determine which factors prompted policymakers like Pease, Brown, and Kaptur to demand that trade officials incorporate environmental protections into NAFTA. Kingdon argues that three factors cause policymakers to bring new issues to a government agenda: how they recognize and define problems, how they are affected by political events, and how they develop policy proposals from their own values, beliefs, and life experiences. Connecting the "agenda-setting" theory to the NAFTA and environment historiography reveals that academics have highlighted several factors that influenced policymakers' perceptions of NAFTA and the environment. They contend that the end of the Cold War, the proliferation of organized interests, the Republican and Democratic Party's reversal on free trade stances, the rise of the fourth wave of the environmental movement, and the inclusion of Mexico into the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) all prompted policymakers to bring environmental protection to the NAFTA agenda. These interpretations mirror the first two components of Kingdon's "agenda-setting" theory; indeed, external problems and political factors contributed to the commencement of the NAFTA and environment debate. However, no scholar examined how the third element of Kingdon's model – how policymakers' develop policy proposals from their own values, beliefs, and life experiences – caused decision-makers to bring environmental protection to the NAFTA agenda. This thesis offers a new interpretation to enrich the NAFTA and environment historiography by examining the lives of Representatives Pease, Brown, and Kaptur and arguing that their life experiences caused them to develop strong environmental values and beliefs that influenced their personal and professional decisions, including their perception of NAFTA and the environment. Additionally, it should serve as a model for future academics to follow when observing other government agenda-setting case studies.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:nafta environment agenda setting trade policy marcy kaptur sherrod brown donald j pease values


Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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