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Memo From Mexico | NAFTA Negatives: American Agribusiness Displacing Mexican Peasants
Discontent with NAFTA is growing on both sides of the border. In the United States, a coalition of Americans is fighting to prevent the wholesale entrance of Mexican trucks. In Mexico, there is great concern over the importation of American agricultural products. To protest this, Mexican demonstrators have blockaded the border, put cows in front of the Mexican Congress, and even ridden horses into it. Calls for the government to do something have increased, and the government has indicated that NAFTA can be reconsidered.
Could we just split the difference? How about putting NAFTA expansion on hold for now? Don't abolish it, just don't expand it. We get to control our own highways and Mexico can keep its farm tariffs.
Try it for a year while both countries think about what they really want out of NAFTA anyway.
Yes, I supported NAFTA when it was being passed. I even wrote an article in my home town paper in support of it. I thought it was good for both the U.S. and Mexico.
In some ways it has been good. Like every trade pact it has its winners and its losers. But we also should ask the question – where is it heading? Open borders? A hemispheric equivalent of the European Union?
Can't we take the time to figure out what we really want out of NAFTA?
Look at it from the Mexican farmers' perspective. Since NAFTA came into effect, the Mexican pork industry has lost 30% of its revenues due to the importation of cheaper pork. The beef industry has lost 40% of its revenues.
You don't have to be a full-fledged protectionist to see that maybe, just maybe, such changes may be a little too drastic.
And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out where a lot of out-of-work farmers are going to migrate to.
Not that NAFTA has been bad for all of Mexican agriculture. The Mexican tomato exportation industry has done well. Modern, well-capitalized agricultural businesses have been able to compete.
But the 15 million or so small farmers who live off the land are at risk. And as usual, the campesino class is wallowing in misery. That was true before NAFTA, thanks to Mexico's socialism, instituted in the early 20th-century. In the decade since NAFTA came into effect, the Mexican government has done little to prepare farmers to be competitive with American agribusinesss.
Rural Mexico is in pitiful shape. One thing it needs is a good dose of non-agricultural investment, so more people could stay in their hometown and be gainfully employed. But what is really happening is the ongoing depopulation of rural Mexico. Its inhabitants emigrate to the U.S.A., or if they're really poor, become squatters in Mexico's growing cities. Some believe the Mexican government is systematically depopulating the countryside – that it prefers to see campesinos emigrate to greener pastures in the U.S. or in urban Mexico than to stay in peasant villages.
It's rather curious, don't you think, how George W. Bush responds very differently to illegal immigration and the Mexican agricultural crisis?
When it comes to NAFTA, Bush believes in the letter of the law. The treaty must be enforced, come what may. Mexican truckers must be able to drive in the U.S., and Mexico must eliminate farm tariffs. We must honor the NAFTA treaty!
U.S. immigration law, though, is another matter entirely. Millions of Mexicans violated U.S. immigration law? No problem, Bush starts to talk about "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande" to justify an amnesty.
When you think about it, American corporate Agribusiness has things real sweet. Its economies of scale and government subsidies enable it to crowd out family farms. It enjoys cheap imported labor (often illegal) while the American taxpayer is saddled with the social costs of mass immigration. And then it gets to export its products to Mexico in the name of free trade.
What a deal! – for them.
American citizen Allan Wall lives in Mexico, but spends a total of about six weeks a year in the state of Texas, where he drills with the Texas Army National Guard. VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at email@example.com
January 14, 2003