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Creating a trade bloc than won't block justice, freedom.

The pressures -- and dollar figures -- involved in world trader are enormous, almost beyond human range. World trading is a $3.5 trillion enterprise. And yet such trade, esentially, is settling into giant Northern, First World trading blocs -- everyone inside the bloc protected against those outside the bloc while trading freely inside without barriers or tariffs.

NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, intends to make Canada, the United States and Mexico into just such a bloc -- to compete against the European Community and the unofficially coalescing Asian bloc, which will hae Japan at its hub. And yet, as the articles in this issue suggest, NAFTA is not all benefits and we're left wondering: What should we think about this?

There seem to be several important starting points. First, the United States ought to do something to help the Mexicans economically become self-sustaining. Or, another way of looking at it, some sort of trading agreement is essential, morally and economically. We are the only First World country with a Third World neighbor cheek by jowl, that 2,000-mile border.

Next, we ought to help Mexico become a democracy. As a people and as a government, we have not really examined our neighbor closely to see what we can do to help. Most of us did not realize that torture and human rights abuse in Mexico equals or exceeds that in some Central and South American and African countries.

The question is, then, how do we go about forming a North American trading bloc?

According to current studies, such as those by the Inter-Hemispheric Education Resource Center in Albuquerque, N.M., the onslaught of mighty U.S. agribusinesses will "wipe out" most Mexican growers of wheat, sorghum and especially corn, creating "great potential for rural unrest," to say nothing of further impoverishment.

Is economic disruption on a grand scale really what we want to bring to Mexico under the justification of improving its economy? No.

Whether one takes pro-business Conference Board estimates that in the final analysis NAFTA will mean no U.S. job losses (because of the job creation from increased trade), or the AFL-CIO estimate that U.S. job loss will accelerate and wages will be depressed, the divide in the arguments are sharp and great.

There is much we simply do not know. It is, then, a time for caution, a time to say that maybe the problem with NAFTA is that we are rushing into it. It took the European Community almost 40 years to move from its industrial cooperation treaties through the European Common Market to the present-day EC. NAFTA is attempting to accomplish the same feat in 24 months.

Suddenly, we realize the debate that should have been held before the three national presidents signed NAFTA -- which was negotiated more or less in secret -- is being held now.


Something is wrong with NAFTA's haste. The big powers of finance, commerce and industry -- essentially the U.S. investment community -- see Mexico ripe for the plucking. That's what is going on.

President Clinto is sufficiently uneasy about NAFTA to have slowed the pace somewhat. However, what is needed is at leastt a 12-month moratorium on ratification and spilling the discussion into the open.

Vice President Gore seems to be the person who could handle that discussion, for economic and environmental issues are becoming intertwined.

In fact, Worldwatch Institute, whose opinions are always worth considering, thinks that building environmental agreements into world trading agreements is the way to go. But again, in the haste to sign NAFTA -- which in its current form is a Bush administration gift to the business community at Mexico's and the U.S. workers' expense -- issues of environment have not been given much attention.

Nor is one other issue that we regard as key.

The justification for the establishment of the European Community bloc has not been just mobility of trade and investment, but also the mobility of labor (which in Mexico is also under the government's thumb). NAFTA at the outset should aslo be working toward total mobility of labor: Canadians working in Mexico and the United States, Americans working freely in Mexico and Canada, Mexicans crossing the open borders into the United States and Canada. Abolish the borders and the trade, and the people are really free.

Yet, are not some of the same people so eager to get hold of Mexico's resources precisely those who ae lobbying hardest for keeping Mexicans out?

At its core, something is not right at NAFTA.
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Title Annotation:Editorial; North American Free Trade Agreement and Mexico
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Apr 16, 1993
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