Promises not kept

Issue 

Promises not kept

By A.V. Krebs

"White House Subdued on NAFTA's Impact" (Washington Post), "U.S. Report to Congress Nafta Benefits Are Modest" (New York Times), "NAFTA deemed a moderate success" (USA Today), "Nafta Is Good for U.S., White House Study Says" (Wall Street Journal).

Even the nation's North American Free Trade Agreement's media cheerleaders were hard put (save the Wall Street Journal) to find much in a recent White House evaluation of the three-year-old trade agreement between Mexico, the US and Mexico to trumpet.

As Representative David E. Bonior noted in his July 13, New York Times "I Told You So" op-ed essay, "the most the Administration could bring itself to say is that Nafta has had a 'modest positive effect' on the American economy. That's a far cry from the extravagant promises made by the accord's proponents during the 1993 debate."

He enumerates:

Three hundred thousand new jobs? No. The report, required by Congress, suggests that NAFTA-related exports have created 90,000 to 160,000 new jobs. But such figures do not account for 132,000 Americans who lost their jobs as a result of the pact. According to the Labor Department's NAFTA Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, set up to help displaced American workers, that's the number of certified NAFTA-related job losses.

Higher wages? No. Mexican wages along the border have dropped from $1 to 70 cents an hour, according to International Monetary Fund figures. A study by Cornell University commissioned in 1996 by the US Labor Department revealed that 62% of US companies surveyed used the threat of moving to Mexico to hold down wages at home.

Environmental clean-up? No. Toxic sites along the border have continued to multiply. To date, only 1% of the $2 billion in clean-up funds promised under NAFTA have been spent.

"It is true", Bonior, the House Minority whip, states, "that trade has risen between the United States and Mexico in the last three years, but it has been lopsided. Imports from Mexico have surged by 83% since 1993. What was a $2 billion trade surplus with Mexico before NAFTA became a record $16 billion deficit last year."

Who, he asks, has actually benefited from NAFTA?

"Some of the big winners are the 28 core members of USA-NAFTA, an industry group that lobbied for the agreement. Forty-two per cent of these multinationals shipped jobs abroad once NAFTA was adopted, an analysis of the Labor Department's trade adjustment assistance data shows. Their profits have increased by 296%, according to financial information published in Forbes."

He concludes:

"NAFTA has not delivered on its promises. Let's not repeat the errors of the past. Instead of rushing to expand it and putting other countries on the 'fast track,' let's concentrate on fixing NAFTA first."

[Reprinted from Progressive Populist, excerpted from The Calamity Howler.]

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