Women on both sides of the border have borne the brunt of NAFTA
In the two
years since the implementation of NAFTA, the circumstances of workers, farmers and women, as well as environmental conditions, in Mexico and the United States have deteriorated, says a study released December 20 by non- governmental organizations in both countries.
"The evidence shows that, instead of engendering sustainable development, NAFTA is leading our countries down a path of increasing inequality and environmental destruction," said Karen Hansen-Kuhn of The Development GAP, which issued the report along with Equipo PUEBLO and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).
The study, "No Laughter in NAFTA," reports that NAFTA-related job losses in the United States doubled in 1995. Unemployment also doubled in Mexico between September 1994 and September 1995, and the purchasing power of the average Mexican wage fell by 54 percent.
At least 334 U.S. firms have moved to Mexico, many in highly polluting industries, the study said.
Rural communities in both countries are suffering under NAFTA, according to the report. Mexican production of basic grains has fallen over the past two years as the market is flooded with grain imports from the U.S.. In the United States, nearly 40 percent of NAFTA-related layoffs have been in rural communities, particularly in low-wage manufacturing.
The study documents the fact that women on both sides of the border have borne the brunt of NAFTA. In the United States, the largest number of NAFTA- related layoffs has been in the electronics and apparel industries, both of which employ high numbers of women. In Mexico, the booming "maquiladora" assembly plants along the border prefer to employ women because they are paid less and are perceived as more submissive.
"The beneficiaries of NAFTA are the large U.S. corporations that take advantage of cheap labor," said Sarah Anderson of IPS, "while the people NAFTA was supposed to help, North American workers, are worse off because of the treaty."
"As a result, neither the Democratic White House nor the Republican leadership in Congress, both of which promoted NAFTA, will likely raise it as an issue in the upcoming election year, much less advocate for its extension to other countries," said Anderson.
"The situation is much the same in Mexico, where NAFTA has come to symbolize the now thoroughly discredited administration of former President Carlos Salinas," said Carlos Heredia of Equipo PUEBLO. "Here in Mexico, NAFTA is such an embarrassing subject that President Zedillo never mentions it."
The authors of "No Laughter in NAFTA," part of a broad-based network of North American citizens' organizations that had designed and advocated a fundamentally different approach to continental development during the NAFTA negotiations, urge a rapid shift in policy before NAFTA's negative effects are compounded. "Since NAFTA is failing to achieve its goals and fulfill promises," they conclude, "the peoples of all three countries and their elected officials should jettison the accord and reexamine the rules and principles for a more democratic framework of integration."
[Editor's note: The full report, "No Laughter in Nafta," is available from The Development GAP (202/898-1566) or The Institute for Policy Studies (202/234-9382). ]
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