Academic journal article Social Justice

NAFTA: The Intersection of the Geopolitics and Geoeconomics of Capital

Academic journal article Social Justice

NAFTA: The Intersection of the Geopolitics and Geoeconomics of Capital

Article excerpt

Preliminary Outline

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) "is REMINISCENT OF an earlier era, when mother countries such as England offered preferential trade terms, or Commonwealth preferences, to their former colonies in order to ensure their continued economic, financial, and political dependence....The motives of the [U.S.] government with regard to Mexico certainly remind us of those of the British Empire." This was written by Robert Kuttner in Business Week in mid-1991. At that time the intersection of U.S. "geoeconomics and geopolitics," as it would affect North America - and the rest of the Western Hemisphere - was already apparent. The idea was to "integrate" a Third World country of Latin America - a country that at the time of this writing is still officially known as the United States of Mexico - into the larger economy of North America.(1) Few Mexican citizens were aware that not only some of the constitutional principles established more than 150 years ago, but also crucial elements of the exercise of "jurisdiction" normally associated with the concept of the nation-state were at stake in the "negotiations" preceding the eventual implementation of NAFTA. More specifically, I refer to the "total" transformation of the "economic geography" (which covers not only trade, but also finance, industry, infrastructure, and agriculture) of North America, to the detriment of the "public interest" of Mexico and that of the other countries involved. The consequences will be especially costly and damaging for the formal wage-earning sector, whether blue- or white-collar. This sweeping transformation has been orchestrated mainly to cater to "U.S. private interests"(2) and it entails a "geopolitics" that also serves large corporate interests. Both the geopolitics and the geoeconomics have been codified through the commercial, financial, geopolitical, and jurisdictional instruments developed by the most powerful of the three nations concerned during the process that culminated in the signing of NAFTA.

From a historical perspective, this "integration process" should be seen as a fresh manifestation of the Monroe Doctrine; there is a direct link between NAFTA and the expansionist tradition of the United States. U.S. Vice President Al Gore vividly expressed this connection, urbi et orbi, when he compared NAFTA to the territorial acquisitions of Louisiana and Alaska made by the United States in the last century.(3) In this century, NAFTA is not the first example of expansion and the Western Hemisphere is not the first theater for it, as we can see by studying the "Grand Area" worked out between Franklin Roosevelt's government and the business community before and after World War II,(4) or by examining other experiences linked to adaptations of Monroe-style integration, such as those deployed by German capitalism before World War II. It is worth recalling that each interventionist phase served to stave off the successive crises as they arose. Alan Milward (1986: 19) has illustrated with abundant documentation that the international aspects of a controlled economy - exchange controls and bilateral trade treaties - could easily be incorporated into an expansionist foreign policy. Fascism, the form of capitalism that prevailed in Germany during this period, indeed set out to overcome the country's internal crisis by dividing up the world and laying claim to a "new Lebensraum," in which Germany would establish "large economic areas" under the jurisdiction of the motor economy of the "zone."(5)

These "zones" created a larger market at a time when demand was declining; hence, the new areas could fill this void with their own resources and productive potential. In other words, as Milward points out, rising employment levels and incomes depended "not on the recovery of international trade...but on redrawing the international map to define more sizable 'natural areas.'"(6) When the newly emerging blocs entrenched their control over neighboring markets - just as the recession was deepening - they devised a strategy to maintain welfare in the metropolis without having to resort to internal measures that might prove unpalatable to the large monopolies. …

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