[m2c] "NAFTA-Plus," Migration, and the Future of North America
sandinista at shaw.ca
Tue Aug 14 22:49:27 MDT 2007
Americas Program Commentary
"NAFTA-Plus," Migration, and the Future of North America
Ted Lewis | August 14, 2007
Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)
This August 20th and 21st, President George Bush and Mexican President
Felipe Calderón will travel to the remote Canadian resort of
Montebello, Quebec to confer with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen
Harper about the future of North America. Their agenda will be
dominated by a little known "NAFTA plus" strategy they are calling the
Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP).
While we don't know much about the specifics of the summit's closely
held agenda, it's safe to say they won't be designing democratic,
locally controlled, and earth-friendly policies. That's because
instead of public meetings with representatives of the Mexican,
American, and Canadian peoples, these right wing leaders will be
huddling with the corporate elite club known as the North American
Competitiveness Council, whose members include Wal-Mart and Lockheed
Martin, among others.
Press releases from the summit will undoubtedly glow with
proclamations about the wonders of trade and investment and the urgent
need for infrastructure and security integration. And while we'll hear
how the free market will painlessly solve global warming and other
crises, it's unlikely there will be any acknowledgement of the
disastrous human consequences of the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA). The nearly-15-year-old treaty has spurred mass
economic dislocation in Mexico, accompanied by drastically accelerated
labor migration to the United States.
In fact, the principle reason that our tri-national leadership has
taken to expanding NAFTA's reach without the consultation of national
legislatures and the general public is that they do not want to again
confront the messy democratic opposition—from both the left and the
right—to their notions of elite North American integration.
Remember that the NAFTA model was negotiated, ratified, and
implemented with bi-partisan consensus among politicians. Al Gore
carried water for the pro-NAFTA forces in the only national debate we
had on the topic and Bill Clinton put the full weight of his early
presidency behind the plan, which was developed and negotiated by the
previous—George H.W. Bush—administration.
Given the support for NAFTA from business and Washington, it is not
surprising that the mainstream media has rarely covered NAFTA's failed
promise to provide opportunities to the majority of Mexicans, or to
lessen the income disparity between Mexico and the United States. The
media's blind spot on the failures of trade economics has become so
reflexive that even in the heat of this year's immigration debate it
would have required great diligence to discover that the rate of
immigration from Mexico has essentially doubled since the advent of
NAFTA and that close to 60% of undocumented workers in the United
States are Mexican born.
Despite the stunningly apparent connection between the failures of our
trade policies and the breakdown of our immigration system, few if any
journalists and commentators dared to examine the link. Recently, even
some alternative media sources have joined the ruling consensus, using
the flawed logic that the far right's opposition to the SPP—for a
whole host of reasons, including fears of "racial dilution" and
imaginary Mexican plans for the re-conquest of the American
southwest—must prove there is something positive about it.
Despite conservatives' overwrought race-based and other imaginary
fears, there is genuine reason for concern about the secret,
undemocratic nature of the elite integration model. Indeed, the
attempt to undemocratically extend NAFTA's reach echoes with silence
about its human toll: the broken families, disrupted communities, and
ever-widening income inequalities within and between NAFTA partners.
Even a minor adjustment like delaying the final removal of tariffs on
white corn and beans from the United States to Mexico at the beginning
of 2008—something that would provide some small protection to Mexico's
most vulnerable small farmers—has been declared off the table.
In the wake of the failed immigration reform efforts in the United
States this year, it is clear that the success of any future reform
will lie in addressing the desperate need for sustained
community-level economic development in Mexico. This kind of
development will not mint new millionaires the way NAFTA has, but it
will provide opportunities for Mexicans to stay at home and reduce the
pressures currently overwhelming the U.S. immigration system.
The policies promoted by Bush, Harper, and Calderón are sure to be
more of the same and worse. We need to push for a Genuine Prosperity
and Human Security agenda and for an urgently needed North American
conversation on democratic integration from below.
Ted Lewis directs the Mexico Program of Global Exchange and
collaborates with the Americas Program at www.americaspolicy.org. He
can be contacted at the U.S. telephone number (415) 575-5533 or
"Until all of us are free, the few who think they are remain tainted
with enslavement." Lee Maracle
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