IF Mexicans could vote in the US presidential elections, George
Bush would probably garner the most ss. Bill Clinton would take
second. And Ross Perot, if running, would finish way back.
The determining factor? The North American Free Trade Agreement
Sixty percent of Mexicans believe NAFTA will benefit their
country, the highest approval rating among the three parties to the
pact - Mexico, the United States, and Canada - according to the
latest Gallup poll. President Carlos Salinas de Gortari is billing
NAFTA as the neon exit sign for a nation seeking a way out of its
And nobody on the hustings is touting NAFTA like President Bush.
The jobs created by US export-oriented industries are one of the
few bright spots the Republicans can point to amid the economic
Bush and Mr. Salinas have met more frequently than any US and
Mexican leaders in recent memory. The personal rapport has been
good, thanks to similar free-trade, market-oriented ideals. The
nation-to-nation relationship has also been close: Relations have
not been derailed even by a recent US Supreme Court decision
virtually rubber-stamping the kidnapping of Mexican citizens as a
legal way for the US to fight the drug war.
"Ten years ago, that would have been grounds for severing
diplomatic ties. But now commerce exceeds $70 billion annually. You
have a commercial relationship that governs the bilateral
relationship," says Roberto Salinas Leon, academic director of the
Center for Free Enterprise Studies in Mexico City.
"By the year 2000 I have no doubt Mexico will be the No. 1 US
trading partner," he says. "NAFTA brings order to this tremendous,
inertial, commercial relationship."
While leading leftist opposition parties here argue about
NAFTA's shortcomings, they do not dispute the free-trade trend.
Most analysts see it as part of a global pattern.
"The single most important issue shaping the relationship over
the next century is free trade. If Clinton accepts that, the
Salinas administration will accept him," says Luis Rubio, a
political scientist at the Center for Research for Development in
During the primaries, Governor Clinton and former US Sen. Paul
Tsongas were the only two Democratic candidates to take
pro-free-trade positions. Since then, Clinton has expressed doubts
about NAFTA and conditioned his support upon reading the final
document. Most analysts expect him to endorse NAFTA in some form if
he becomes president. …