Albion Monitor /Features
 Project Censored: 1995 Story # 10

The Broken Promises of NAFTA

The promises of prosperity that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would bring the USA and Mexico were most loudly proclaimed by USA*NAFTA, a pro-NAFTA business coalition. The USA*NAFTA coalition promised that the free trade pact would be all things to all people. It would improve the environment, reduce illegal immigration by raising Mexican wages, deter international drug trafficking, and most importantly, create a net increase in high-paying U.S. jobs.

Now, some two years after the agreement became law, USA*NAFTA's own members are blatantly breaking the coalition's grand promises. Many of the firms-that only a short time ago were extolling the benefits of NAFTA for U.S. workers and communities-have cut jobs, moved plants to Mexico, or continued to violate labor rights and environmental regulations in Mexico.

An analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies revealed how the original promises are being broken in Mexico: while the standard of living may be better for the wealthy, there's been a 30 percent increase in the number of Mexicans emigrating to the U.S.; the peso devaluation of December 1994 cut the value of their wages by as much as 40 percent (making them far less able to buy U.S. goods today than they were before NAFTA); interest rates on credit cards climbed above 100%; retail sales in Mexico's three largest cities have dropped by nearly 25%.

The continuing economic crisis in Mexico is expected to cause the loss of two million jobs in 1995, and economic desperation is blamed for the 30 percent increase in arrests by U.S. border patrols between January and May 1995.

NAFTA's promises to U.S. workers also have been broken: the Department of Labor's NAFTA Transitional Adjustment Assistance program reported that 35,000 U.S. workers qualified for retraining between January 1, 1994, and July 10, 1995, because of jobs lost to NAFTA. A University of Maryland study estimates that more than 150,000 U.S. jobs were cut in 1994 as a result of increased consumer imports from Mexico. And since the peso devaluation in December 1994, the U.S. trade surplus with Mexico has turned into a deficit expanding from $885 million in May 1994 to $6.9 billion a year later, wiping out any basis for claiming that NAFTA is a net job creator for U.S. workers.

And, finally, an investigative piece by Mother Jones revealed that the environmental impact of NAFTA has been as severe as the economic impact. While government officials promised that NAFTA would reduce the level of pesticides coating Mexico's fields, this hasn't occurred.

The competition that NAFTA has set off between growers may actually increase the amount of pesticides used on Mexican crops. In fact, since NAFTA, Mexican growers are spraying more toxic pesticides on fruits, vegetables, and workers. Responsibility for pesticide use lies not only with Mexican growers but also with their U.S. agribusiness partners. The Mother Jones investigation also revealed that these companies, which supply capital to more than 40 percent of large-scale agribusiness in Mexico, distribute produce that has been sprayed with pesticides not permitted for use in the United States.

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SOURCES: COVERT/ACTION QUARTLY, Fall 1995, "NAFTA's Corporate Con Artists," by Sarah Anderson and Kristyne Peter, pp 32-36; MOTHER JONES, January/February 1995, "A Giant Spraying Sound," by Esther Schrader, pp 33-37, 72-73.

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Albion Monitor March 30, 1996 (

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