Here it comes! The Mexico-Washington-Wall St. propaganda juggernaut to push through Congress the North American free trade agreement (NAFTA) has hit the road. First come the op-ed columns by such revolving door lobbyists as Carla Hills (who negotiates the agreement as a Bush official, then heads a rich consulting firm representing foreign and domestic companies behind NAFTA) in the New York Times etc., and after Labor Day will come the TV and print media advertising barrage. NAFTA is opposed by a broad coalition of family farmers, consumer, religious, minority, labor, safety and environmental groups. This coalition believes that NAFTA means more multinational corporate power over our national, state and local governments and reduced democracy in our country to defend our health, safety and economic standards from being pulled down to lower foreign country levels.
NAFTA backers point to reduced tariff and investment barriers between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. They prefer to ignore many other provisions in the massive 1100 page, two volume agreement. These other provisions expose our higher standards, say for asbestos control or food safety, to attack by other countries who claim that the U.S. is really using these standards as “non-tariff trade barriers” keeping out asbestos or some food pesticide residue.
Second, the dispute tribunals under NAFTA are a cruel hoax. They are cumbersome, outside our court system, and have no enforcement teeth if, for example, Mexico does not enforce its child labor or pollution laws. Clinton’s negotiators gave up on one after another side agreements that would have put teeth in Clinton’s pre-campaign promises. Mexico and Canada took the Clintonistas to the cleaners.
Third, the NAFTA agreement is mistakenly premised on Mexico being a democracy where citizens can freely organize trade unions, sue in independent Mexican courts to enforce laws and receive compensation for their harms, speak freely at citizen action mobilizations and engage in relatively honest election balloting.
As many Mexican human rights leaders have documented, the Mexican government and its one party domination have long made a mockery of these premises. Mexico is a country where political and economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few enormously wealthy families. Forget the rule of law. For most of Mexico’s 84 million people, it is the rule of a dictatorial regime with many police-state characteristics. Can a modest democracy (the USA) move toward economic union with an autocracy of repeated repression, brutality, and election theft.
The Cardenas challenge to the Salinas candidacy in 1988 received the majority of votes cast. Impartial observers of that election and the majority of Mexicans believe Salinas’ PRI Party, in power for over 50 years, stole that Presidential election
The New York Times reports that large drug dealers are buying up Mexican companies in anticipation of moving more illicit drugs over the border.
Mexican trucks, with abysmal safety and inspection standards, will be allowed to cross the border, with their $7 a day truck drivers, and ship their contents throughout our states. The NAFTA agreement gives these trucking companies years to reach U.S. levels of truck safety, which need upgrading themselves.
Our corn, more efficiently produced, will flood the Mexican markets, in the opinion of Hispanic scholars, and dispossess millions of Mexicans (corn farmers and their families). They will go, in their desperation, north to the Rio Grande and beyond, say these analysts.
There has been no popular national debate on NAFTA encouraged by either Bush or Clinton. The Congress has rigged the procedure, requiring an up or down vote, without amendments and with only 20 hours of House and Senate debate.
It is time for the American people to take this NAFTA issue on directly. For free information write to Citizen Trade Watch, P. 0. Box 19404, Washington, D.C. 20036. To sound off, call Clinton’s chief trade negotiator, Mickey Kantor, at 202-395-3204.