Quantcast

Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

If the NAFTA superhighway is not being built (please see TTC or Texas Trans Corridor), then why is the Alberta government posting images on its website showing "NAFTA Superhighway"? Is the TTC not the starting point of this NAFTA superhighway? If there is no such thing, then why would the Alberta authorities even post it? (Please note: if you get a 404 page, just go to http://www.infrastructure.alberta.ca and search for NAFTA. The second result should read: "Government of Alberta: NAFTA Trade Corridors & State Truck Standards. Click that link to see what I'm talking about.)

If I-69 was just a US highway, then why does the symbol on the front page of this PDF merge the flags of Mexico, Canada and the USA?

Yes, it will be merged with some existing highways (that will surely be increased in size and scope). Whether or not it is called the NAFTA superhighway is beside the real point. There is a merger at work here of our three nations and the EU.

If you can't see it, then so be it. All the Doubting Thomases out there will just have to wait until this NAFTA superhighway is in place and operational before they believe it exists.

Ryan Thomas

Salt Lake City, UT

Oct 8 2008 - 5:41pm

Web Letter

Dismissive, naïve articles like this are the reason I cancelled my Nation subscription several years ago.

The auother says that the NAFTA highway plan doesn't exist. The TTC isn't part of a planned privatized road extending across the country?

Why does The Nation tolerate writers that are so gullible they believe everything the government tells them?

Dan Steinberg

Blacksburg, VA

Nov 30 2007 - 2:18pm

Web Letter

It is useful to separate fact from myth when it comes to corporate-led globalization, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and attempts to expand its scope. The facts are sufficiently disturbing!

It is true that the ten-lane, four-football-field-wide version of a raised NAFTA highway cutting through the United States is a myth, as is the notion that the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) is a glide path to a single North American nation ruled by a common government. However, the premise of this story--that the mythical versions of the NAFTA Superhighway and the SPP were "not fabricated out of whole cloth" but "sewn together from scraps of fact" taken out of context--is also not correct.

Regarding the notion of a NAFTA Superhighway, there is no one single über highway. However, in fact, a significant amount of federal transportation funding has been appropriated since NAFTA's implementation in 1994 to widen and otherwise expand several major existing highways that have been designated--often by legislators seeking the additional highway funds--as "NAFTA corridors." These include north-south routes connecting major US-Mexico border crossings and connecting highways heading into the Midwest. Funding also was allocated for a Kansas "inland port" that was to provide for US Customs clearance of goods from Mexico well within US territory. Funding has also been allocated to expand various US-Mexico border crossings. As the story notes, the Trans-Texas corridor is very real, although it is the most actuated aspect of the NAFTA corridor concept.

These expenditures were not part of a secret conspiracy but rather an open recognition that NAFTA would result in production being moved to Mexico's lower wages and a greatly increased volume of goods shipped to the US consumer market. Since NAFTA's inception, what was a balanced trade flow between the United States and Mexico has exploded into a $62 billion deficit of goods now being produced in Mexico being shipped to the United States.

Moreover, the Bush Administration has once again acted to steamroll Congress and opened all US highways to Mexican-domiciled trucks. NAFTA included a US commitment to deregulate long-haul cross-border trucking. Translated out of NAFTAese, that means allowing trucks from Mexico, where drivers are paid a fraction of US driver's wages, to travel beyond the twenty-mile border transfer zone and onto all US roads. The Clinton Administration refused to implement this aspect of NAFTA after repeated studies by the Department of Transportation's own Inspector General showed that neither Mexico's long-haul fleet nor its driver licensing and safety rules met the requirements of US law. In 2001, a NAFTA tribunal ordered the United States to open the border to NAFTA cross-border trucking services.

The Bush Administration has repeatedly tried to implement this NAFTA order, providing an Exhibit A for how "trade" agreements can flatten basic safety policy. The latest Bush Administration move is a "slippery slope" strategy, cherry-picking 100 Mexican trucking firms with the best safety records whose fleets would gain immediate access to all roads in the United States, large and small. The idea with this bogus "pilot program" is to demonstrate that Mexican-domiciled trucks are safe and thus pave the way for access by all Mexican-domiciled trucks in the future.

The Bush plan violates a 2001 Congressional mandate requiring these trucks and drivers meet US safety standards regarding hours of service, driver training and licensing and vehicle safety. Already people have been killed by NAFTA trucks plying the previously-approved twenty-mile commercial zone in the border area.

Similarly, while much has been written lately on the SPP, once again we have to keep our eyes on the real culprit--NAFTA--and think about what needs to be done to alter or sunset NAFTA. Much of what is attributed to the SPP is actually just implementation of existing NAFTA obligations. For instance, a large aspect of what sparks public concern about the SPP is harmonization of the three nations' pesticide safety, food safety and other regulatory standards. However, that regulatory race to the bottom is in fact fully authorized in the NAFTA text. Dozens of NAFTA technical working groups that predate SPP by a decade are the real driving force behind the SPP's harmonization agenda. The vast majority of these working groups are meeting behind closed doors with no consumer or citizen input. The creepy SPP energy agenda is actually based in the "proportional sharing" rules of NAFTA's energy services text.

That said, SPP does pose real threats to our neighbors in Canada and Mexico. The ways in which SPP extends beyond NAFTA's existing mandate have to do with attempts to set a North American "security" policy that would extend many of the civil liberty roll backs we have experienced at home under the Patriot Act.

Further, a real issue with SPP is the opportunity it creates for hatching bad plans--by bringing together in regular closed-door meetings away from public scrutiny the heads of North America's largest corporations and three governments that have proved to have consistently retrograde agendas.

Will the new Democratic-majority Congress put the brakes on the Bush administration's obsession with the damaging NAFTA model? Worryingly, Congress is now heading towards votes to expand the failed NAFTA model to Peru and Panama. The majority of Democrats oppose these agreements. Members of Congress need pay careful attention to these issues. Freshman Nancy Boyda (D-Kansas), whose campaign focused on one of the proposed NAFTA corridors--Interstate 35--was one of many in 2006 who defeated long-term incumbents who turned a deaf ear to citizen concerns about NAFTA trucks and unfair trade.

Lori Wallach

Washington, DC

Oct 10 2007 - 1:54pm

Web Letter

Christopher Hayes of The Nation does a disservice to family farmers, environmentalists, anti-globalization activists, labor advocates, and the future generations of this continent by declaring the NAFTA Superhighway "a myth" and framing the issue as nothing more than John Bircher conspiracy nuts vs. "realistic" politicians and bureaucrats. Hayes takes the position that the NAFTA Superhighway does not exist and defends his stance by describing several very real infrastructure projects--Interstate 35 and the SmartPort in Kansas City, the TransTexas Corridor, the deep-water port of Lazaro Cardenas, and the SPP--and claiming that they are completely unrelated. He fails however to even mention the I-69 project currently connecting Canada to Indianapolis via Port Huron, Michigan, with further construction slated to continue in the spring from Indianapolis to Matamoros, Mexico where it would connect with the Atlantic corridor highway of Plan Puebla Panama (PPP).

In its readily available Long Range Transportation Plan, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) states that "in 2008 new construction to complete I-69 in Indiana will commence. This segment represents a major building block in the completion of the 'NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Highway'." At press time the very real evictions of six of the 450 family homes and farms slated for dislocation in Indiana had already taken place--all in order to shave thirteen minutes of travel time from Indianapolis in the center of the state to Evansville Indiana in the Southwest corner of the state. These thirteen minutes however, are expected to translate into 2,700 truck hours a day, making the $3.2 billion cost for I-69 in Indiana a direct subsidy to not only the engineering corporations responsible for building the highway but also those multinationals responsible for the extraction, manufacture, distribution, marketing and retailing of the commodities to be transported from Canada to Mexico and vice versa on the new Superhighway.

The I-69 extension is slated to destroy 5,000 acres of farmland, 1,500 acres of forest, and 300 acres of wetlands in Indiana alone, and opposition to it has been widespread since it was first proposed over fifteen years ago. With groundbreaking scheduled to begin in the spring, resistance has intensified. Two INDOT offices have been "evicted" by demonstrators acting in solidarity with dislocated family farmers, INDOT planning meetings have been disrupted and stopped, and the offices of contracted companies have seen repeated invasions and demonstrations. The people fighting the very real NAFTA highway in Indiana are not John Birchers or conservative, xenophobic evangelists. They are farmers, environmentalists, anti-globalization activists and common taxpaying citizens. We invite all like-minded people to southern Indiana in the spring of 2008 to be on the frontline of the battle against environmental destruction, neoliberal globalization, corporate welfare and capitalist infrastructure.

Emmett Grogan

Evansville, IN

Oct 6 2007 - 7:41pm

Web Letter

You sir, are lying. To hell with you and your Neo-Con CFR cronies. Anyone with "eyes to see" can figure out what is going on here.

Cindy Warren

Trinity, TX

Sep 10 2007 - 4:41pm

Web Letter

This is a load of crap... this person is ruining our country because just look at this as a whole. What has Nafta done for this country--nothing but move jobs out of this country. For example: Mattel and all other toy companies over 80 percent of all toys are made out of the United States in countries where enviromental issues are huge. Along with child labor issues. Now you want to build this highway. This can only be the work of Satan because all its going to do is bring more problems. We can't get a handle on illegal immgration, where in the Constitution does it state that when they have a child here that it allows them free schooling or housing or the right to live in this country! If they want to live in this country do it the proper and legal way. If we were try to do this in their country we would be called every name under the sun, if you get my point.

Put an end to all of this make Mexico one of the states. Most of them are here anyway and they can learn the English language! Just like my grandfather had to and he did it the legal way!

Lyn Schaub

Peru, IL

Sep 2 2007 - 9:33am

Web Letter

Christopher Hayes is right, there's no proposed Superhighway--not that anyone can prove. From NASCO to government officials, everyone denies it. But in his haste to ridicule the likes of Jerome Corsi and other immigrant-bashing, sovereignty-defending right-wingers, Hayes has missed all the signs that our transportation, regulatory and trading systems are undergoing a major remake.

Last year on a radio show I hosted, George Blackwood, President of NASCO, also called the superhighway a myth, but he made a strong pitch for bypassing the LA ports and routing China trade through Mexico and into the Midwest. He couldn't tell us how all the resulting truck traffic will be accommodated on I-35 north of Texas because NASCO, he said, has nothing to do with infrastructure. NASCO hosts yearly meetings of city and corporate officials along the corridor from Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific to Winnipeg to promote trade and transportation efficiency. They get government subsidies for their initiatives and, like other such organizations going back to early railroad days, do influence the shape of our transportation infrastructure. (Listen to the August 31, 2006, broadcast.)

If Hayes hadn't been so preoccupied with debunking the superhighway myth, he might have noticed that others on the left were also raising questions about NAFTA corridors and the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). Monthly Review published a major article by Richard Vogel in February 2006 and currently has a response to Hayes on the mrzine webpage. Also, the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC) has been raising alarms about the SPP (NAFTA Plus) and the corridor plans for several years, as has the Council of Canadians. So please, Mr. Hayes, don't dismiss all of us as Hofstadteresque paranoids. Whether myth or fact, you can be sure that plans for a NAFTA Superhighway would be made in secret and kept secret as long as possible just like the SPP, the Trans Texas Corridor and virtually every other aspect of the trade policy of the United States.

And it isn't just right-wingers who are talking about a possible customs union and deep integration. Hayes quotes a government official who assures us that SPP is a "relatively mundane formal bureaucratic dialogue." If so, then why did the Canadian Labour Congress, many other unions and the Council of Canadians just sponsor National Days of Action against the SPP? The SPP is about much more than harmonizing the number of jar sizes for baby food, which Hayes reports. It will apply the US version of homeland security to Canada and Mexico; eliminate each nation's independence in setting regulatory standards; and integrate our resources, with vast implications for Canada's water and oil shale and Mexico's public petroleum and energy industries. It has been negotiated completely behind closed doors by our governments and large corporations. Instead of repeating government assurances that it's nothing, The Nation should be exposing yet another betrayal of democracy.

Hayes dismisses Teamster President Hoffa as just another paranoid, but the reshaping of trade and transportation includes significant labor issues like our government's plans to replace US drivers with cheaper Mexican drivers who work for multinational trucking companies that have been buying up Mexican truck lines. Also, rail workers are alarmed at the takeover of the privatized Mexican rail system by US rail companies like Kansas City Southern Railway, which is now dubbed the NAFTA Railroad. Then there is the soon-to-be-built massive rail and deep-water port project in Baja California called Punta Colonet, which will funnel containers east across fragile deserts to the Midwest. Its workers will presumably be without any real union representation, just like at the port at Lazaro Cardenas.

We're not all paranoids and we don't all spew the rhetoric of Phyllis Schlafly or Lou Dobbs. Those of us who live along the NAFTA I-35 Corridor who are looking south to the mega-highway being built in Texas have some real legitimate questions. We are deeply concerned about where the Trans Texas Corridor is going and if it will really come to a screeching halt at the Oklahoma line. We worry about the environmental consequences of a trade model that hauls increasing quantities of manufactured and agricultural goods and resources across thousands of miles of ocean, rail and road from distant lands, all using fossil fuels and spewing pollution to get it here. We are alarmed at the prospect of privatized roads built by militantly anti-union outfits like Zachry while the public roads deteriorate. Like so many Americans, Canadians and Mexicans, we worry about how many more jobs will be off-shored so that the corridor boosters can soak up government subsidies and Wal-Mart can get its goods on time.

Judy Ancel

Kansas City, KS

Aug 20 2007 - 4:21am

Web Letter

The Chinese= and Mexican=supported venture will wind up owning the water rights, and thereby will control what, if anything, gets grown. What better way to defeat a nation than to take over the production of its food supply?

Tucano Fulano

Big Bear, CA

Aug 17 2007 - 4:43pm

Web Letter

It was very disappointing to read Christopher Hayes's attempt to set up a NAFTA SuperHighway strawman as a means to discredit what he terms "paranoiacs" from a motley group including JBS, Lou Dobbs's viewership, WND readers, traditional conservatives, moderate and progressive nationalists and anyone else opposing the globalist agenda.

The elephant in Hayes's article was his sidestepping of the extensive papertrail that exposes the grand and secretive efforts to undermine national sovereignty and replace it with a regional government. Rarely has the underlying neoliberal and neoconservative ideology been exposed to the general public.

I suppose when David Rockefeller, addressing in June 1991 the extraordinarily powerful organization he cofounded with Brzezinski, the Trilateral Commission, expressed his gratitude for MSD discretion, he was referring to the type of smoke and mirrors we got from Mr. Hayes's article. Rockefeller told them: "We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine, and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries."

The left-right MSM debates are a tiring theatrical performance, a series of distractions right out of Orwell. The notion that the general public must be led by the hand and treated like children because we couldn't possibly understand high-level policy discussions becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when ignorance is passed off as information.

Cindy Pedersen

Westminster, CO

Aug 16 2007 - 12:04am

Web Letter

Hayes gets the story of the "NAFTA Superhighway" right. Jerome Corsi, the John Birch Society and their ilk rather nastily (and, I think, cynically in many instances) work on citizens' elemental fears of change, whether they be those associated with roads or foreign peoples--in this case, both. The "NAFTA Superhighway" might be the perfect instigational metaphor for those fears in the increasingly narrow-minded, however globalized, world of flash-in-the-pan Internet discourse.

I wrote much the same narrative in the February 2007 issue of the trucking industry magazine Truckers News ("Ghost Road"). What Hayes misses or underemphasizes here is the role of successive federal highway bills--beginning with the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act--in creating the conditions under which both the NAFTA Superhighway myth and the trend toward privatization as a model for highway funding and development have emerged. In essence, the 1991 bill began a process of relaxing of federal oversight of interstate highway development--after all, by 1991 nearly all of the Interstate Highway System had been built--granting states more latitude in what they do with their Highway Trust Fund revenues, necessitating the creation of regional- and local-level lobbies like NASCO (and the CANAMEX Corridor coalition, the Ports-to-Plains Corridor Coalition, the Alliance for I-69...), which is itself partly responsible for the phrase "NAFTA Superhighway." Meanwhile, state and federal politicians (mostly the former) have been increasingly lax in or simply politically afraid of raising fuel taxes to provide the needed revenue to expand the existing infrastructure to keep up with traffic pressures, which the recent tragic Minnesota bridge collapse may unfortunately illustrate. There, of course, is where private interests come in, with their large up-front lease payments and tolls, promising rescue for weary roads.

The American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (quite frequently at odds), along with other highway-user groups, have banded together in Americans for a Strong National Highway Network, supporting the gas-tax model for highway expansion and upkeep. Many truckers stand with them.

Todd Dills

Birmingham, AL

Aug 14 2007 - 10:16am

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.