The NAFTA Debate of 1993

Introduction

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trade agreement signed by US and its northern American countries sharing a common border, that is, Canada and Mexico on 17 Dec 1992 and took effect on January 1, 1994. The agreement was intended to lower trade barriers between the member countries. This was hoped will result in increased exchange of goods and services. The members were large, sovereign and very diverse in terms of culture, laws, political, economic, social development. The agreement proposed major issues that would led to disruptions in their national issues bearing in mind the diversity of the countries involved. This fueled a great debate among various groups in all the three countries each giving their opinions and adopting different attitudes. There were areas of consensus and others of divergence depending on each group’s stands (Johnson & Beaulieu 1996).

Prior to NAFTA, Canada was trying to establish a closer relationship with US. It had for a long time maintained a distant relationship with US, choosing to seek trade agreements with Britain, then the Commonwealth countries and the UN institutions. By keeping a distance, it intended to protect its industries from US corporate and economic penetration by for example electing tariff walls and procedures for screening investment. However, in the 1980s the mood changed and Canada wanted to do ‘open business’ with US and bilateral negotiations commenced leading to the 1988 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA). The Canada-US FTA gave the basis for the discussions of the NAFTA chapters (Campbell 2001).

Mexico on the other hand, had bilateral relations with US before the NAFTA on environmental issues on their common border in the 1970s and early 80s. Other than that, Mexico kept a distant from the powerful neighbor for the fear of political influence. This uneasy relationship had led to failure to implement two trade agreements in the 19th Century. This changed however with the 1982 debt crisis after which radical reformers took charge of the country and adopted new agendas of de regulation, privatization and rationalization of public funds. Mexico went on a mission to strategically put the country on a regional economic network in order to gain market access especially in US ((Johnson & Beaulieu 1996).

Opinions and attitudes

The NAFTA debate took place in three contexts on partner countries’ levels. Canada and US had little impacts in the sense of the costs of adjustments needed for the implementation of the accord. Yet, this is where much of the debate took place. In US there were predicted job losses, negative environmental issues, and increased illegal immigration flows into the country from Mexico. In Canada groups and individuals opposed to the accord cited possible erosion of labor standards and job losses. Mexico on the other hand was the ‘week’ partner and had challenging adjustments to do. There was no much debate since the ruling party was very powerful and centralized to stifle debate on the same (Merolla at al 2001).

Mexico

President Salinas’ administration wanted to gain access to the US market in order to complement its free market reforms and therefore, the NAFTA agreement was important to the country. The president requested officially for a free trade negotiations with US (Davis 1998). The opinions and attitudes of the Mexican people on the accord were as a result of the information made available to them by the government. Bearing in mind that the country had a lot of short term adjustment costs to meet, was regarded as the weak among the partners and fear of political domineering by the powerful US, public opinion was expected to be negative. This was not the case. The reason was because the government did not involve the general public rather, negotiations were kept top secret and the public fed propagandas by the government. Information on the NAFTA negotiations by the domineering government was shared with big businessmen also close allies of the government, who were highly consulted. The opposition party, PRD was against the accord and had planned an upraising to coincide with the signing but, they soon lost interest and softened (Kuklinksi & Hurley 1994, 730).

The president also mounted a media campaign to support NAFTA which outlined its benefits therefore; the opinion was likely to support the accord. He started a social investment program to assist the rural communities that were likely to be greatly affected by the agreement in negative ways. This fund distributed millions of shillings and therefore those following it were likely to be support the accord.

Unions are other sources of information and public opinion shapers in Mexico. However, the unions were closely linked with big businesses and government which were propagators of NAFTA. The manufactures and consumers were predicted to benefit from the accord due o access to US market and flow of high quality, low prices goods from US respectively. The workers were also to benefit from opportunities to work in US industries. All this watered down any opposition from the Unions (Aguilar 1994).

Canada

In entering the NAFTA negotiations in late 1990s, Canada was reacting to the bilateral negotiations between US and Mexico. The country did not have a free trade agreement with its North American neighbors as content of its foreign policy agenda. The main aim was not to be left out of a large trade area in which US was a participant. Canada felt that such an agreement would subject it to economic and political circumstances that it would not have an input. Such was the opinion and attitude the government brought into the debate and which influenced its stand on issues arising from it (Johnson & Beaulieu 1996). Canadians generally had a positive attitude towards free trade with US at the face of it and especially during the CUFTA in 1980s, but when specific issues were raised, opposition was mounted by Pro-Canada Network which included teachers, nurses, auto workers unions, Canadian labor congress, and some artists among others. NAFTA was seen as an extension of CUFTA to include Mexico which drew less opposition. Canadians generally felt that US benefited more from CUFTA due to the rising unemployment and jobs losses as a result of dislocations of industries (Avery 1998).

The issue of concern for Canada was social effects of NAFTA. Canadians were of the opinion that low wages and environmental degradation in USA and Mexico would attract their industries to either US or Mexico. Jobs losses and restructuring of industries was predicted to cause massive effects in revenue collection such that the government would not be able to provide social programs to the affected people. Lowering of earnings from taxes as industries shift was predicted to cause loss of tax revenue.

Canadians also opposed the NAFTA due to believe that it would be drafted so as to favor US more. The accord according to the populace was to help Canada access to US markets while protecting the Canadian exports against US protectionism. Critics of the accord were in doubt whether it will do what it was designed to do.

The issue of pride and independence was also an influence to the opinions and attitudes adopted by the critics. They saw likely influx of imported goods from the partner countries which would erode the country’s identity (Johnson & Beaulieu 1996).

United States

The Bush senior administration, which started NAFTA negotiations and signed the agreement, and Clinton administrations, argued that NAFTA would lead to increased jobs and exports to the partner countries. The officials said that free trade with Mexico would result to creation of 200,000 jobs in the first two years of implementation. They also expected an export boom as Mexico was a lucrative market for US manufactured goods such as motor vehicle. The Clinton administration said that, the country’s major motor vehicle manufacturers expected to export 60,000 cars to Mexico in the first year of NAFTA implementation (Blustein 1996).

According to US executive, export boom expected due to increased trade from a $5 billion deficit to a $5 billion surplus due to lowering of tariffs in 1987 by the Mexican authorities. The administration was optimistic that the trend would accelerate when NAFTA removes trade barriers. On motor vehicle export they assumed that there would be no significant imports of the same to the country from Mexico which was not the case.

Another assumption was that the US industries that had shifted to Mexico due trade barriers and other economic benefits would go back to US after NAFTA. Vice president Al Gore in a televised debate with Ross Perot, an ardent critic of NAFTA, talked of an industrialist, Norm Cohen, who shifted his business from North Carolina to Mexico. He said if NAFTA passed he would shift his business back to US and the 150 jobs it provided (Blustein 1996).

There was also strong anti-NAFTA opposition in US, which was under the umbrella of the group, Citizen-Trade Campaign, comprising of sixty groups. These included environmental and advocacy groups, labor unions, religious and civic groups, and agricultural groups among others. These were organized and therefore mounted a strong campaign which influenced public opinion greatly.

The debate focused on three issues: that NAFTA would destroy American jobs, Ross Perot a member of the group is quoted saying, infamously though, that NAFTA would be like a giant sucking sound of jobs shifting from America to Mexico where according to him labor was cheap (Merolla et al 2001); the other issue was environmental concerns. The critics of the accord said that due to Mexico’s laxity in implementing environmental laws, environmental degradation along their common border would be experienced. Again the issue of laxity in pollution prevention by industries in Mexico was predicted to attract industries from US to the country. This in turn would lead to more jobs loss. This stand however changed as Bush drafted other supplementary deals for the protection of the environment. Groups such as the National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund became ardent supporters of NAFTA.

The last issue of criticism of NAFTA was immigration. Critics claimed that influx of Mexican illegal immigrants would be experienced as they came to seek for jobs which would further deteriorate labor standards. Supporters and economists however said that increased economic growth in Mexico would result into less movement to US. To a certain extent nationalistic and xenophobic attitudes influenced much of the debate on immigration and job loss debate. Perot emotionally portrayed NAFTA like a motor threat to American jobs and industries while ignoring the benefits it had to US (Kuklinksi & Hurley 1994).

One of the most ardent individual critic of the NAFTA was Ross Perot, a Texas Billionaire who founded a movement called ‘People for the American Way’. He argued that free trade with Mexico would cost America millions of jobs. He estimated 6 million jobs will be lost due to import of cheap labor from Mexico. Another critic was Pat Choate, an economist, who published a study that claimed that 5.9 million jobs were at risk as a result of industries shifting to Mexico or disappearing due to competition from Mexico (Blustein 1996).

Opinions of journalists

In the NAFTA debate, some journalists were of the opinion that the benefits and negative consequences to US in terms of exports and jobs creation were overstated by the both the administration and critics. One such journalist was Paul Blustein of the Washington Post who wrote that the administration based its numbers on a study done by two scholars at the institute for international Economics. This particular study had concluded that the increase in jobs and exports would be there, but small yet they made it look like a boom with millions of jobs created. He continues to say that they failed to look at the other possibility of increase in both to Mexico at the expense of US (Blustein, 1996).

Another journalist who displayed his attitude toward the accord and in effect influencing public opinions and attitude was Peter C. Newman of the MacLean’s Magazine. He proclaimed in his article that Canada was inferior partner in the CUFTA agreement and the NAFTA was likely to be the same. In the first treaty he likened Canada’s role as that of a mouse scratching the unyielding hide of an elephant in this case US. Under the NAFTA he was of the opinion that Canada would be like a flea. He claimed that US was trying to transform the North American region into a bloc that was only there to serve its interests and the rest of the nations become its puppets (Newman, 1993).

The media in general took stands on the NAFTA debate which only educate the public on the issues depending on their stand on the debate. The New York Times, as a commentator on Albion Monitor, Solomon, indicates leaned on the supporters of NAFTA trade pact. It published supplementary materials and editorials presenting the benefits both economically and socially, of NAFTA and other issues promoting it. It also refused to print advertisements and articles critiquing the accord (Solomon, 1996).

Conclusion

The NAFTA agreement was intended to lower trade barriers between the member countries. This was hoped will result in increased exchange of goods and services. The members were large, sovereign and very diverse in terms of culture, laws, political, economic, social development. The agreement proposed major issues that would led to disruptions in their national issues bearing in mind the diversity of the countries involved. This led to a major debate in the three countries. The NAFTA debate took place in three contexts on partner countries’ levels. Canada and US had little impacts in the sense of the costs of adjustments needed for the implementation of the accord. Yet, this is where much of the debate took place. In US there were predicted job losses, negative environmental issues, and increased illegal immigration flows into the country from Mexico. In Canada groups and individuals opposed to the accord cited possible erosion of labor standards, job losses and loss of identity. Mexico on the other hand was the ‘week’ partner and had challenging adjustments to do. There was no much debate since the ruling party was very powerful and centralized to stifle debate on the same.

These opinions and attitudes were based on many some assumptions such as: export boom expected due to increased trade from a $5 billion deficit to a $5 billion surplus due to lowering of tariffs in 1987 by the Mexican authorities. The administration was optimistic that the trend would accelerate when NAFTA removes trade barriers; the US industries that had shifted to Mexico due trade barriers and other economic benefits would go back to US after NAFTA and NFTA was opening of US borders to massive immigration from Mexico. Canada on the other hand, was acting on suspicions on the intentions of US and misplaced fear of imports from US.

Reference

Aguilar Zinser, Adolfo. 1994. “Authoritarianism and North American Free Trade: The Debate in Mexico.” In Ricardo Grinspun and Maxwell A. Cameron, eds.

The Political Economy of North American Free Trade. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Avery, William. 1998. “Domestic Interests in Nafta Bargaining.” Political Science Quarterly 113: 281-305.

Blustein, Paul. 1996. NAFTA: Free Trade Bought and Oversold. Washington Post Online, Web.

Campbell, Bruce. 2001. “False Promise: Canada in the Free Trade Era.” In “NAFTA at Seven: Is impact on workers in all three nations.” Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper. Washington, D.C.: EPI.

Davis, M. 1998. “Mass Support for Regional Economic Integration: The Case of NAFTA and the Mexican Public.” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos. 14 (Winter): 105-130.

Johnson, Pierre & Beaulieu Andre.1996. The Environment and NAFTA: understanding and implementing the new continental law. Peterborough. Broadview Press.

Kuklinksi, J. H., & Hurley, N.L. 1994. “On Hearing and Interpreting Political Messages: A Cautionary Tale of Citizen Cue-taking. Journal of Politics, 56: 729-751.

Merolla, Jenifer, Stephenson, Laura J, Wilson, Carole J & Zechmeister, Elizabeth J. 2001.

Globalization, Globalización, Globalisation: Public Opinion and NFTA. SanFrancisco. American Political Science Association. Web.

Newman, Peter C. 1993. “Proclaiming NAFTA is a national shame.” Maclean’s. Web.

Solomon, Norman. 1997. The media love affair with the “Free Trade”. Albion Monitor Online. Web.

Cite this text

Pick the style

Reference

NerdyTom. (2021, November 25). The NAFTA Debate of 1993. Retrieved from https://nerdytom.com/the-nafta-debate-of-1993/

Work Cited

"The NAFTA Debate of 1993." NerdyTom, 25 Nov. 2021, nerdytom.com/the-nafta-debate-of-1993/.

1. NerdyTom. "The NAFTA Debate of 1993." November 25, 2021. https://nerdytom.com/the-nafta-debate-of-1993/.


Bibliography


NerdyTom. "The NAFTA Debate of 1993." November 25, 2021. https://nerdytom.com/the-nafta-debate-of-1993/.

References

NerdyTom. 2021. "The NAFTA Debate of 1993." November 25, 2021. https://nerdytom.com/the-nafta-debate-of-1993/.

References

NerdyTom. (2021) 'The NAFTA Debate of 1993'. 25 November.

Copy this

We received this text from a student and added it to our database in order to facilitate your research. You can reference it in your writing assignment by using our citation generator.

Send us a request to withdraw this paper if you are the original author and no longer want to see it published on NerdyTom.