The day after the Gore-Perot debate, great big baskets of goodies from the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) began arriving at the Congressional offices of each of your Senators and Representatives. Festooned with bright ribbons, these baskets contained brand name potato chips, crackerjacks, spaghetti, brownies, macaroni and soaps, razors and chewing gum. A large card with a red, white and blue sketch of the U.S., accompanying the baskets with the words “NAFTA IS JUST GOOD BUSINESS.” This delivery was a tiny part of a massive Big Business – Clinton campaign to do anything necessary to ram through Congress, under autocratic, no-amendment procedures, the North American Trade Pact with Mexico and Canada. Undecided members of the House of Representatives are asking and getting from Clinton cynical “protectionist” assurances for citrus, sugar, brooms, potatoes, etc. in return for their vote for “free trade.” –
Other undecided members, entering this bazaar of bribers and bribees, are demanding this federal program and that federal grant for their District cronies in return for a “yes” vote on NAFTA.
While Clinton, and his David Gergen-of-Reagan-Infamy, horsetrade what is left of the Presidential integrity, millions of dollars of your tax monies are being spent to dispatch Cabinet Secretaries, staff, agency heads and assorted armtwisters all over the nation to huddle with business lobbyists and urge the campaign money givers to demand from their Congressional money takers a “yes” NAFTA vote.
Why then are the NAFTA opponents in the Congress still giving Clinton fits?
Because of the growing outrage of an aroused citizenry who realize that NAFTA has something bad for just about everyone who has to work for a living — blue and white collar workers, consumers, taxpayers and poverty workers.
Last year, in a Wall Street Journal-Roper poll of top executives of manufacturers, 24% said they would probably use NAFTA (the threat of going to Mexico) to hold down wages; 40% said after NAFTA they were likely to relocate some plants to Mexico. That is the horse’s mouth evidence, folks, not Al Gore’s facile prophecies about huge job gains for the USA.
With modern equipment and one-seventh to one-tenth of the American wage rate, repressed, as a matter of policy, by the Mexican dictatorial regime, the land south of the Rio Grande can be quite tempting for factories. Without having to worry about law enforcement for labor rights, pollution control and the like, these relocated factories can sell back to the USA and undermine factories that stayed here and played by the rules. But then how long will these factories hold out before they too have to go to Mexico for self-defense?
NAFTA’s deepest damage could be the way it erects an international, autocratic, secretive tribunal system before which foreign governments can take our higher food safety, truck safety, toxic controls and workplace standards. The accusation: our higher standards are keeping out their food and their consumer products and chemicals that don’t measure up.
If the tribunals decide our higher living standards are blocking imports, the USA has to either reduce or repeal these standards or be faced with indefinite fines and other sanctions. There is no appeal to any court from these decisions. No citizens can participate before these tribunals, only the federal government in secret. Even state governments are shut out.
To illustrate how corporate rigged NAFTA is, your taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuel producers are exempted from foreign challenges, while American programs subsidizing energy conservation and solar energy development are vulnerable to challenge.
During the Gore-Perot debate, I kept thinking about how the roles were reversed. Here is ex-populist Albert Gore standing with big business, the Mexican dictatorial regime and invoking the yellow peril (he called it Japan and the Far East), while billionaire Perot was standing for human rights in Mexico, accurately describing the oppression of Mexicans and the exploitation of workers by Big Business. That was indeed the substance beyond the different styles of the two men.
Most ironic was Al Gore supporting a trade pact that would make some of Al Gore’s most cherished environmental reform proposals in his recent book — Earth in the Balance -subject to challenge by foreign governments as invalid non-tariff trade barriers. These reforms include assistance to further recycling, and efficient energy, light bulbs, motor vehicles and utility practices.
Gore even wrote that having too-weak environmental law enforcement should be considered an unfair trading practice. Alas, NAFTA gets countries in trouble only for having stronger not weaker standards. For the USA, NAFTA means an international autocracy on the backs of our modest democracy with the pressure downward.