NAFTA: What’s It Really Good For?

In a post last week on NAFTA Eristic Ragemail states:

Nativist anger at undocumented workers is misplaced. If nativists really cared about U.S. jobs and the welfare of the American worker they would focus the intensity of their anger at U.S. corporations and the politicians that do their bidding.

This statement couldn’t be more true. The problem is the wave of nativist sentiment simply wants to find something to hate and another human being is a better target for them then a company or government they feel powerless to change. They find it easier and more fulfilling to actually see the target of their disdain. For those people that truly want to change the way this country, and its big businesses, treat their people and those in other countries we have a lot of work to do. Pointing fingers at each other is not a good way to start.

I had read, not too long ago, two books by Greg Palast (Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy) which provided some insight into these trade agreements between nations and entities such as the WTO and IMF. With these agreements you essentially end up with companies that can bend countries to their will. NAFTA only encompasses North America and even there we see this in one case, amongst many I’m sure, where a U.S. company sued Canada for disrupting their business due to Canada refusing them to import gas with a harmful additive. So basically the Canadian government is being told it has no jurisdiction to look out for the health of its citizens lest it be sued.

Aside from that issue I was thinking about how NAFTA is by definition a “free trade agreement” which one would assume essentially makes Canada, the U.S. and Mexico borderless when it comes to moving products back and forth. Of course the people have to stay put. Commodity over compassion.

How three separate nations with separate economies and standards of living can trade this way makes little sense to me. If this agreement created one economy amongst the nations I think we know who is getting the raw end of the deal. If this agreement was truly in the benefit of everyone it would bring everyone to a common economic ground. Unfortunately this is not the case.

The following quote, from Flor Crisostomo’s letter to Felipe Calderon, in an article titled US & Mexican Activists Target Merida Initiative, Trade Pacts sparked my desire to write this post.

“We call on the Mexican government to renegotiate NAFTA, because for 14 years it has been the principal propeller of migration and the separation of families in Mexico,” Crisostomo wrote the Mexican president. “And we are seen and treated like criminals in this country,” she added.

If our businesses can benefit from cheap labor in Mexico then why can’t Mexican people benefit from higher paying jobs in the United States?  For more information here’s a link to a wonderful blog titled Eristic Ragemail and an article titled Globalization, NAFTA and immigration.

From this article:

Immigration and emigration between Mexico and the United States is driven by a complex set of forces. These forces are the result of economic and political policies put in place by the United States and Mexico. One such element is the maquiladora program which essentially expands the borders for U.S. manufacturing concerns deep into Mexico. Under this program, American corporations are allowed to transfer their manufacturing facilities to Mexico and pay pitifully low wages and send the finished goods back to the U.S. market without tariffs or other duties leveled on importers from other countries. In almost all respects this is a losing proposition for Mexico and most critically for Mexican workers.
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Simply by placing a manufacturing plant 50 feet across the border from the United States, American companies are able to produce manufactured goods while paying their workers less than $5.00 a day. When you consider that manufacturing jobs in the United pay about $12.00 an hour this expansion of U.S. borders greatly benefits U.S. corporations.

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4 thoughts on “NAFTA: What’s It Really Good For?

  1. “If our businesses can benefit from cheap labor in Mexico then why can’t Mexican people benefit from higher paying jobs in the United States?”

    Because in both cases, MEXICANS not US citizens benefit. Do you think outsourcing really helps the american worker?

  2. You have a strange perception of economics. If people in other countries produce goods for next to nothing which are then shipped back here every consumer benefits. That even includes the “American worker”. Unless, of course, these workers never buy clothes, food, electronics, etc.

    So yes the American worker does benefit from cheap foreign labor, but obviously the major corporations benefit more.

    It’s a hypocrisy where we want people in other countries to provide us with cheap consumer goods, but we don’t think they’re good enough to become U.S. citizens. We just want them to stay put and we certainly don’t want to really now what conditions they live in. That’s not to say that the U.S. is the only country that benefits from this. The same angry anti-migrant ranting is going on in Europe as well.

  3. How does creating jobs in Mexico hurt Mexico? What would the Mexican workers be doing if they didn’t work in a maquiladora? Isn’t it a silly statement to say that giving Mexican workers more choices for employment is a bad thing for them. If is such a raw deal, then Mexicans would not take the job. If they were captured like slaves and forced into the maquiladoras to work then yes this is a bad thing. However, if this were the case, I’m sure we would have heard about this.

    Basically the example of maquiladoras hinders rather than edifies your attempt at explaining why NAFTA is bad for Mexican individuals.

    Of course in the natural progression of an economy, the Mexican workers’ working conditions will improve. The employees will get better treatment and higher wages. We have seen this with strikes by maquiladora workers and the employers making concessions (hmm were have we seen that before). Creating jobs in a economy is ALWAYS a good thing because it creates more choices for earning an income.

  4. If I threw a piece of moldy bread into a mass of starving people would you commend me for giving them food or would you be angry that I wasn’t feeding them enough?

    The only one’s truly benefiting from this arrangement are the U.S. companies who, as you eluded to, are using tactics which we fought against in our nation’s history. Obviously if people are needy enough they’ll work anywhere, but jobs at maquiladoras are not answer – at least not at the low wages they pay. If you’ve read about these places you’ll now that these companies don’t protect their employees who are often attacked leaving work.

    I don’t know as much as I should about NAFTA, but I definitely know that it puts a company’s right to do business over a country’s right to regulate it. That’s not too good.

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