Effective on January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) was enacted as a new dream, one designed to enhance the economiesand production of goods for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Since itsconception, it was, and still remains today a controversy over the potentialgreatness and predictive results vs. the actual facts and figures that have beenwitnessed.
Now, only some five years later, many would agree that this dreamhas developed into a nightmare for those on all sides of the border. Thisagreements far-reaching and damaging effects have been felt–in the United States– mostly by the small business owners, and the individual middle-to-lower classworker. I will expand on these points, however, I must also mention the plight ofour nations neighbors, who share in the consequences of this pact.
NAFTA is onits way to marking a decline in the American economy, an increase inunemployment, and a general deterioration in the morale of the workforce inThe glorious theory of NAFTA sure sounded innocent enough. In fact, itpainted the beautiful picture of North American countries holding hands in aunion bound for excellence. Together, they would strive for a common wealthand to each, a revival of imports and exports; thus improving the economictraditions of all. Free trade (eliminating tariffs) between countries andexpansion of sales across the border were the main objectives in the agreement,and each side had something to gain through the process(Online, 1). Canada, whoimports vast amounts of agricultural products, appreciated the elimination oftariffs on the goods that are brought into their country. For the United States,the opportunities were many. The expansion of trade meant more productneeded, therefore more jobs would be created to employ the people.
It alsoallowed for the establishment of manufacturers anywhere in North Americawithout any exchange penalties. This is what made it possible to abuse thecheaper labor in Mexico to make American products and then sell these back tothe Americans at the same price. Mexico had bright hopes for the future, also.
Itseemed they had been granted a more respectable position in internationalcommerce. In addition, it could also provide more jobs for their poverty-strickenpublic(Creations, 1-5). Collectively, these merits looked great on paper andachieved much support from both democrats and republicans, providing for itspassing in both the Senate and House of Representatives. In its only opposition,were mostly labor unions, knowing the effects of the cheaper Mexican labor; andhuman rights groups, fearing the rights of the Hispanic laborers would beIn Mexico, NAFTA has not lived up to any of its expectations. The salarythat the workers accrued has remained the same, and in many cases hasdecreased, because of competitiveness. However, their average production hasincreased 36.4% since NAFTAs implementation. In turn, since they are workingmore and earning less, these employees have experienced a definite decline ofpurchasing power.
In 1997 alone, over 7.7 million Hispanic employees were beingpaid less than the legal minimum wage of $3.40….. A DAY!! Overall, the middleclass of Mexico is disappearing.
Since NAFTAs birth, the country has been forcedto watch as at least eight million would be middle class Hispanics were being castout into poverty. These results can be directly attributed to NAFTA because, inthe ten years before the plan, the poverty rate maintained a constant figure of34%; yet from 1994 to 1997 the rate went to 60%, almost doubling in threeyears(*Watch, 1-93). The working conditions of these laborers have not improvedeither. These substandard facilities are often much more dangerous anduncomfortable than the label sweatshop implies.
America has not fared much better than Mexico. Actually, I should sayAmerican people are not any better off..
The scales are tipped heavily by thestories of NAFTA victims, with not much recoil from success stories. In a studyconducted by the Public Citizens Global Trade Watch, some 60 of 67 companies,who had specifically promised to produce jobs, had failed to meet their goal oreven expand their business in Mexico. In fact, these companies had documentedlayoffs due to NAFTA. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately214,902 American workers have been classified ..
..as being laid off due to NAFTA. Furthermore, the Commerce Department canceled a survey program of U.S.
companies to prove NAFTAs job creation, because the results were soembarrassing–less than 1,500 jobs could be accounted for (*Watch, 1-93). Thereare many reasons for the loss of jobs. The most obvious and the most disgracefulis that of the big corporations moving their factories to Mexico. This is insultingto the American working class and an exploitation of the workers south of theborder. Some may only argue this is capitalism, but whatever the argument, it isharmful for everyone but the company owner. A vast sector of the jobs beingdestroyed by NAFTA, are those in either automobiles or electronics; jobs that areconsistently paying above average wages. Those who are not losing their jobs, aregetting paid less for doing them. By threatening that their jobs will be moved toMexico, workers are forced to accept lower wages and benefits to do the exactsame work that they have always been doing.
This also disables the unions andtherefore gives the people absolutely no say so in the matters(Teamsters, 3). What choice do they really have when competing for their jobs, with those whowill work for less in one entire day than the Americans will in an hour?? Thisaccounts for the drop in morale of employees. Workers are not the onlyindividuals who are hurt by the agreement.
Small business owners are being runout of their venture, with the competitions ability to reduce prices (by payingworkers less or relocating). This cycle is only widening a gap between the upperand lower classes, making the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. Nonetheless, thepeople know exactly whom to blame for these troubles they are having. Inrecent opinion surveys, the results show that most Americans are mindful of66% of Americans believe that free trade agreements..
…..66% of Americans believe that NAFTA has helped only the73% of Americans believe that NAFTA has directly hurt thesmall businesses of the United States.
58% of Americans agree that foreign trade has been bad forour economy and cheap imports have cost jobs and wages.81% of Americans say that Congress should not acceptanymore trade agreements concerning consumer safety,labor, or the environment(Watch, 1-59).It appears that I am in agreement with the given American prospective, inthat NAFTAs disappointments are rampant.
The information and statistics thatare provided for us are astounding. Every set of data seems to pinpoint the sameconclusion time and again, yet I cannot see as anything is being done to curb thedamages. Those same ones who said that NAFTA would work are still claimingthat it is working now, and those who opposed in the first place, are still opposing. It seems as though our NAFTA politics are at a standstill, while unemploymentand the economy are not. But something must be done about this situation now,before it develops into a disaster for all parties concerned. I firmly believe thatNAFTA has the potential to damage our nations economy, drastically increase ourunemployment, and to stunt the pride and nationalism that is felt for ourcountry.
That is, of course, if it hasnt done that alreadyBibliography:Bibliography Berner, Bernhard, Kutler. eds. Firsthand America: A History of the UnitedStates. 4th edition. Vol. 2. Chapter 29. Brandywine Press.
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