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Does water treaty have no teeth? And if not, what good is it?

Does water treaty have no teeth? And if not, what good is it?

I believe in treaties. I support cultural exchanges, improved trade, and international harmony among nations.

I know, that’s Never Never Land, but it’s still a good notion and the United States has gained benefits from friendly relationships with other countries. It’s also a good idea to talk to folks across the street, in the next town or over the border. Isolationism may insulate us from some things we don’t want, but it also prevents us from learning things we need to know and limits us from obtaining materials we ought to have. It also gives us insight into what other people in other countries are thinking. We can keep a finger on the pulse of the world.

We need the trade. We need places to sell our commodities, and we need to buy so other nations can afford to buy from us. For instance, I like bananas, but we don’t grow many in this country, so we need a source. I also like coffee—a lot—and we have few coffee plantations in the continental U.S. We can list a boatload of other commodities we purchase from other nations and we can list just as many they need to buy from us. That’s how commerce works.

And that’s why trade agreements and treaties are necessary. We agree on terms—such as reducing trade barriers, tariffs and other practices that limit access to markets. We also contract with other nations to share common resources—to the mutual benefit of each party.

But why, I wonder, does it seem that the United States is the only party that abides by trade agreements and International treaties?

Take the WTO for instance—please, as Henny Youngman used to quip—and try to determine how China, Brazil and several other trade partners get away with currency manipulations, market-distorting subsidies and other means to block access while the United States gets hammered for worse—or  just perceived—infractions. It makes no sense.

A trade organization that oversees international trade would seem a good idea—and it is—but the theory works better than the execution when it comes to fair trading practices. What’s fair for one doesn’t seem to equate to what’s fair for another.

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And then there is the 1944 International Water Treaty between the United States and Mexico that seems to have no teeth for enforcement. Mexico apparently has no qualms about ignoring the treaty when it suits its purpose to withhold water from South Texas. The treaty is based on each side of the border sharing water with the other.

Currently, South Texas farmers, ranchers, municipalities and other water users desperately need the water Mexico owes the United States. But Mexican officials contend they are not obligated to provide that water until the end of a five-year deadline.

Texas legislators are currently working on an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act that would force the U.S. Secretary of State to lean on Mexico to honor the treaty. If the Secretary of State does not comply with the quarterly report requirement, the amendment would prohibit the department from extending benefits to Mexico.

I’m not certain how the U.S. government can “lean on,” Mexico but I expect we have punitive options. And I think it’s time we use them.

South Texas currently is struggling through a third consecutive year of drought, and dry conditions have been more common than not for more years than that. The Lower Rio Grande Valley economic well-being depends on water. It’s not just agriculture that requires adequate water; other industries, institutions and homes also need water that Mexico is refusing to release.

If this treaty has no teeth in it, we need to renegotiate. If it does have some bite, we need to do a little gnashing and chomping until we get what’s due.


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