Friday, April 28, 2006

End NAFTA: Solve the Immigration Problem

The whole debate over immigration in the United States has ignored NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is the crux of the problem. After NAFTA was signed between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, the treaty starting in 1995 allowed U.S. huge agricultural corporations to to dump their corn and beans into Mexico, bankrupting 2 million small Mexican farmers who were driven off the land. Many remaining small farmers in Mexico are nearly destitute. Tens of thousands of these farmers immigrated north to the U.S..

NAFTA also allowed Wal-Mart to sell in Mexico low-price goods made in China, destroying most of the Mexican shoe, toy and candy firms . Roger Bybee and Carolyn Winter said, "An estimated 28,000 small and medium-sized Mexican business have been eliminated." After NAFTA, wages in Mexico have fallen 25%. Bybee and Winter say, "NAFTA essentially annexed Mexico as a low-wage industrial suburb of the US and opened Mexican markets to heavily-subsidized U.S. agribusinesses, blowing away local producers."

Before NAFTA there were 2 million Mexican undocumented in the United States, but after NAFTA passed in 1995, 8 million more Mexicans migrated North. NAFTA was sold as designed to improve the Mexican economy but it has done the opposite: driven down Mexican wages. Also U.S. corporations opened low-wage factories (maquiladoras) along the border which pollute heavily. So Mexicans suffer not just the low wages but also the pollution, horrible housing such as as card board shacks, lack of sanitation seen in open sewers. Further, Mexican government lacks resources for improving services, hiring enough police, erecting streetlights.

There is an alternative to NAFTA and all its ill effects: the European Union and its "social charter." When European countries joined in a free-trade zone similar to NAFTA, they did it totally differently. They insisted on adopting a "social charter" that demanded decent wages, heath care, and investment in all countries. Bybee and Winter said, "Before then-impoverished nations like Spain, Greece and Portugal were admitted, they received massive EU investments in roads, health care, clean water, and education. ... The underlying concept: the entire reason for trade is to provide impoved lives across borders, not to exploit the cheapest labor and weakest environmental rules." EU countries also invested in Ireland, another impoverished country, improved its highway system. This improved highway system helped ignite the Irish economic boom of the 1990s, which drew back to Ireland many exiles.

Bybee and Winter argue that the huge immigration from Mexico to the U.S. is a symptom of the problem caused by NAFTA. The only way to deal with it is to change NAFTA to a social charter like the European Union's. If we don't, the situation will worsen with the Central Amerian Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with five Central American countries, which will do to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador et. what NAFTA did to Mexico.

Of course, HR 4437 should be voted down. A guest worker program should be eliminated from the Senate bill. A social contract should be added to NAFTA.

The U.S. should start immediatley investing in Mexican sanitation systems, housing, education etc. The Mexican government should stop repressing its trade union movement. Industries in Mexico such as the dairy industry should be protected from competition with U.S. giants. Both U.S. and Mexico should enforce strict environmental rules on U.S. companies on the border and start a cleanup of pollution. Such measures may sound utopian now, but the European Union has done similar work for over a decade. Such measures are the only way to solve the immgigration problem.

To read Rogert Bybee's and Carolyn Winter's excellent article "Immigration Flood Unleased by NAFTA's Disasterous Impact on Mexican Economy" go to


Charity said...

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Kay Cooke said...

Hi - I have been rreading your blog off and on for a while now and have learnt lots! Just thought I'd let you know I enjoy your intelligent and reflective posts - especialy interested in the California poets post you did.
This NAFTA one is informative too - never realised that about the social clause ... Thank you for your thoughts and insights (Liked to hear about the art too!)