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NAFTA: A Continental Tragedy

July 1, 2006
Source
IPS - Inter Press Service

By Anuradha Mittal

OAKLAND, Jul 1 2006 (IPS) - On June 6, 2006, the Canadian members of parliament from the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois met with their American and Mexican counterparts to declare that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a "continental tragedy", writes Anuradha Mittal, the founder and director of the Oakland Institute. In this article, Mittal writes that the ongoing debate on the fate of some 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US continues to ignore the structural issues that have forced millions to leave their homes. Free-trade agreements like NAFTA promised to bring more jobs, trade surpluses, and an increased standard of living to member countries, but the reality is altogether different. Far from providing a "level playing field", NAFTA has been a death warrant for small farmers, placing small Mexican farmers at a sharp disadvantage with respect to the US. No fence will be able to take the pressure off of the US border. The country must therefore address a number of simple questions: should the undocumented immigrants be criminalised and our borders walled off, or should we get rid of or renegotiate free-trade agreements? Should we blame the victims of free trade-agreements, or should we ensure that as long as capital and goods can move freely across borders, so can the hungry, the destitute, and the dispossessed?

Recently, the Canadian members of parliament from the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois met with their American and Mexican counterparts to declare that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a "continental tragedy". The occasion was the second Tri-National Forum on NAFTA and on Deep Integration in North America.

"If it were [a success] there would be no need for the fence that the United States wants to build between the US and Mexican border and there would be no need to militarise it either," said Mexican legislator Victor Suarez.

The ongoing debate on the fate of some 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States continues to ignore the structural issues that have forced millions to leave their homes. Free-trade agreements like NAFTA promised to bring more jobs, trade surpluses, and an increased standard of living to member countries, but the reality is altogether different.

Mexico has been growing corn for 10,000 years. Under NAFTA, which was supposed to "level playing fields", Mexico opened its markets to imports from the US, including corn. Mexican farmers were unable to compete against US large corn producers, who are the largest single recipient of US government subsidies, receiving USD 10.1 billion per year, about ten times Mexico’s total agricultural budget for 2000. This giant infusion resulted in massive dumping of corn onto the Mexican market by the US in the amount of between USD 105 and USD 145 million annually.