NAFTA's Fatal Flaws

The American public is confused about NAFTA. People are overwhelmed by the deluge of seemingly contradictory facts (and opinions disguised as facts) about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

There are a number of reasons for the confusion. NAFTA is a complicated, politically charged treaty, and its results are unpredictable--despite the certitudes bandied about by both sides. Will the agreement create new jobs in the United States? Or move them south? Will it help Mexican workers? Will it facilitate a cleaning up of the environment, or further the mess that now exists?

The political landscape around NAFTA hasn't helped cut through the confusion. After all, if Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot oppose the treaty, isn't that enough reason for progressives to support it? (On the other hand, much of its support comes from corporate CEOs and "free-market" conservatives, which is enough to make many suspicious.)

Proponents of NAFTA have sought to build their case by appealing both to self-interest and to altruism. American jobs, they argue, will be increased in the long run. Unfortunately, as Keynes said, in the long run we'll all be dead--and in the short run it seems clear that more jobs will be headed south as corporations seek cheaper labor and relief from those pesky U.S. environmental and safety regulations.

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Sojourners Magazine December 1993
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