By Anna Daniels
On January 1, 1994, a trilateral free trade zone was established in North America. This treaty between the United States, Mexico and Canada resulted in the mass relocation of factories and capital south of the Mexican border.
At the same time as the United States is involved in negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership that lacks transparency and provides enormous corporate giveaways and protections, fifty-three percent of Americans believe the United States should “do whatever is necessary” to “renegotiate” or “leave” NAFTA. Once again citizens are being hoodwinked into believing that jobs will be created and the standard of living will rise without adverse environmental impacts.
It’s important to revisit the promises that were made twenty years ago when NAFTA was signed.
NAFTA was an experiment, establishing a radically new “trade” agreement model. It exploded the boundaries of past trade pacts, which had focused narrowly on cutting tariffs and quotas. In contrast, NAFTA contained chapters that created new privileges and protections for foreign investors; required the three countries to waive domestic procurement preferences, such as Buy American; limited regulation of services, such as trucking and banking; extended medicine patent monopolies and limited food and product safety standards and border inspection. Public Citizen
This same report details what actually happened.
After nineteen years of NAFTA, we can measure its actual outcomes. The grand promises made by proponents remain unfulfilled. Many outcomes are exactly the opposite of what was promised. Many U.S. firms used the new investor protections to relocate production to Mexico to take advantage of its low wages and weak environmental standards and to attack NAFTA countries’ environmental and health laws in foreign tribunals. Over $340 million in compensation to investors has been extracted from NAFTA governments via these “investor-state” challenges.
A few days ago, a group of artists planted twenty flags at the border state park as “A Future Memorial for NAFTA” as a poetic resistance to extractive capitalism that has left whole towns and cities hollowed out economically, their inhabitants struggling and natural environments compromised and toxic.