Nothing from NAFTA, Chilean Critics Say Chile's Leaders Celebrate Greater Access to Markets and Say Foreign Investment Will Power Economic Growth

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THE wish of Chile's leaders came true last weekend in Miami.

At the Summit of the Americas, the southern Andean country was invited to become the fourth nation to enter the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), one year after Mexico's entry.

Despite possible opposition to the move in the United States Congress, Chile's finance minister, Eduardo Aninat, doesn't expect difficulties in finalizing a pact with the US, Mexico, and Canada.

"Chile is small, far away, there are no border problems, no immigration problems. `Do it quick,' that's the feeling {in Congress}," he told the Monitor in an interview.

But in Chile, while the prospect of joining NAFTA is favored by most, some groups worry that workers and the environment will be exploited by the changing rules of trade.

Though opposition to Chile's entry is not expected to disrupt the negotiations - set to begin next month and finish by March 1996 - voices of dissent are emerging.

Negative reaction over the weekend came as a shock in Chile, which has been a Latin American pioneer in restructuring its economy.

Even before the official NAFTA announcement on Dec. 11, the nation's largest trade union refused an invitation from President Eduardo Frei Ruiz Tagle to attend the Miami summit, protesting what it called the government's pro-business bias.

"We're going to call one work stoppage after another," says Arturo Martinez, vice president of the Unified Workers Center. "We're not going to stand back with our arms folded and watch while the country's wealth is handed over to the private sector," Mr. Martinez says.

"Nor are we going to allow the transnationals to come in here and invest, because in the end, it won't even be Chilean capitalists who control our state enterprises," he says.

Aucan Huilcaman of the Whole Earth Council, representing 350 communities of Mapuche Indians throughout the country, says that the indigenous will be most negatively affected by more free trade.

"We are completely opposed to NAFTA because NAFTA has the intention of extracting and exploiting resources, many of which belong to the indigenous people," he says.

Environmentalists are airing similar complaints. "We know that if Chile enters NAFTA, investment in the mining sector will grow even more," says Pedro Fernandez, president of Codeff, a well-known environmental organization in Chile. "And that's the sector that has most polluted both our air and our water," he says.

In the fishing sector, catches have dropped in recent years. In forestry, entrepreneurs are hungrily eyeing 85 million acres of native forests, which take more than a hundred years to grow back once cut down.

Chile ushered in an environmental- guideline law last March, but regulations that would permit its implementation have not yet been approved. …


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