Nafta And Maquiladoras Essay

2310 words - 9 pages

NAFTA and Maquiladoras

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which became effective on January 1, 1994, is a comprehensive, rules-based agreement designed to promote “free-trade” among the United States, Mexico and Canada (NAFTA Forum,1998). Although the agreement was made between three countries, it was largely the inclusion of Mexico around which most of the oppositional debate was centered (Mayer, 1998). Canada is a modern, developed nation very similar in culture and economy to the United States. Mexico, however, is considered a developing nation with an economy much weaker than the United States. Still, a prior trade agreement did exist between the United States and Mexico. Therefore, in order to properly evaluate NAFTA, we must also take into account that prior trade agreement, the Border Industrialization Program (BIP) of 1965. The increase in maquiladoras on the U.S.-Mexico border, and its inherent problems, is a direct result of the BIP (Blank & Haar, 1998). The overall impact of the BIP on the U.S.-Mexico border and the maquiladora industry has been manifold, resulting in increases in maquiladoras, border population, environmental pollution and human social and health concerns. It is also important to recognize that prior to ratification of NAFTA, the Clinton Administration demanded, under pressure by environmental and labor groups, the attachment of two side agreements concerning labor and the environment. Although still too early to tell, NAFTA appears to be amending some of the inherent problems which exist along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Opposition to NAFTA must be placed in some historical context. During the 1980’s many American manufacturing jobs were being exported to Mexican maquiladoras. American labor groups originally protested only on the grounds of job loss, but eventually shifted their focus on the plight of the Mexican worker and the environmental degradation around maquiladora’s (Mayer, 1998). In 1989, the AFL-CIO produced a film about toxic dumping at a Mexican maquiladora, and even worked with ABC’s “20/20” program and NBC’s “Dateline” on stories about toxic hazards in Mexican maquiladoras. In 1989, the AFL-CIO joined environmental and citizen rights groups such as The Border Ecology Project and the Quaker American Friends Service Committee in forming the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras. Environmental and human rights abuses were a means for the American public to focus on the loss of American jobs. As one AFL-CIO official stated, regarding the American public, “Nobody cared about a worker losing his job in Illinois. They were much more sensitive to toxic dumping in Mexico” (Mayer, 1998). Environmental opponents saw the Maquiladora Program as being extremely harmful to the environment, and publicized instances of American companies attempting to take advantage of Mexico’s poor environmental record. Once NAFTA became an important political objective, labor and...

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