Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Players Disagree on How Free Trade Will Be Played out on U.S., Mexico Soil

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Players Disagree on How Free Trade Will Be Played out on U.S., Mexico Soil

Article excerpt

CUERNAVACA, Mexico -- The North American Free Trade Agreement signed last year by President Bush, Canadian President Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Salinas is a 15-year program to eliminate trade and investment barriers (65 percent of which will disappear in the first five years) between all three countries. It will create the world's largest free-trade zone: 365 million people.

NAFTA is unequal in that Mexico is a minor player -- its Gross Domestic Product is only 4 percent of the United States' and 24 percent of Canada's.

Polls show the majority of Canadians oppose NAFTA. U.S. opponents, meanwhile, anticipate accelerated job loss to Mexico's U.S.-owned maquiladora manufacturing and assembly plants.

Endorsing NAFTA are groups that promote business, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Conference Board, which downplays the job-loss estimates and states: "The forces driving NAFTA and other trade blocs will not go away. Business inter-relationships in North America are going on, NAFTA or not. For the U.S., NAFTA is the gateway to expanded Latin American markets."

The Chamber of Commerce argues that "by reducing Mexican tariffs, NAFTA will improve the ability of U.S.-based firms too export U.S.-made products to Mexico." It gives as examples telecommunications, computers, pollution-control equipment, construction machinery and machine tools.

Groups opposed to NAFTA, such as some members of Congress and the AFL-CIO, are concerned about jobs in the United States and working conditions in Mexico. …

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