Afta' NAFTA: The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)
Depending upon whom you believe, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is either a great success or a failure. At the time it was approved by Congress in late 1993 and ever since, there has been a polarizing debate in America about the virtues and vices of our new trade relationships, particularly those with Mexico. 1 Independent presidential candidate Ross Perot predicted that U.S. jobs would flee to Mexico's cheaper labor markets "with a giant sucking sound." None of the euphoric or dire prediction about NAFTA have come to pass, however. All objective assessments of NAFTA agree that it will take years for the three national economies involved to harmonize and for the positive effects of the agreement to be widely felt. 2 To date, the results have been checkered, but the direction of trade relationships is generally positive for all three partners. The gains have been significant enough that they have entered negotiations to expand NAFTA membership to South American countries and/or to broaden the program to cover the entirety of the Americas, a plan variously dubbed the American Free Trade Association (AFTA), the Western Hemispheric Free Trade Association (WHAFTA), or now, by consensus, the Free Trade Association of the Americas (FTAA).
NAFTA then is merely another step in global trade liberalization and does not compete with the GATT and the WTO as much as it complements them in this region. Meanwhile, our NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico, not wanting to become "captives" of American trade policy, have expanded their trade relations with other hemispheric traders and worldwide. 3 NAFTA