NAFTA HIGHWAY TO HELL
Kansas City, Kan.
Christopher Hayes is right: There’s no proposed NAFTA Superhighway–not that anyone can prove [Aug. 27/Sept. 3]. But he’s missed all the signs that our transportation, regulatory and trading systems are undergoing a major remake.
Monthly Review, the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade and the Council of Canadians (CoC) are a few nonparanoids who would take issue with Hayes. Hayes quotes a government official who assures us that the Security and Prosperity Partnership is merely a “mundane formal bureaucratic dialogue.” Then why did the Canadian Labour Congress, many other unions and the CoC recently sponsor National Days of Action against the SPP? The SPP is about much more than harmonizing baby-food-jar sizes, as Hayes states. It will apply the US version of homeland security to Canada and Mexico, eliminate each nation’s independent regulatory standards, 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 corporations. Instead of repeating government assurances, The Nation should be exposing this betrayal of democracy.
This 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, which 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, now dubbed the NAFTA Railroad. Then there is the massive, soon-to-be-built Punta Colonet rail and deep-water port project in Baja California, 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.
Those of us who live along the NAFTA I-35 corridor who are looking south are deeply concerned about where the Trans Texas Corridor is going and if it really will 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 using fossil fuels and spewing pollution. We are alarmed at the prospect of privatized roads built by militantly antiunion outfits like Zachry while the public roads deteriorate. Like so many Americans, Canadians and Mexicans, we worry about how many more jobs will be offshored so the corridor boosters can soak up government subsidies and Wal-Mart can get its goods on time.
The Cross Border Network
Christopher Hayes is correct that the NAFTA Superhighway has inspired myth and legend. But I was surprised he didn’t mention I-69–the Interstate project often the basis for the legend. Promoted in the Memphis region as the future for economic development and despised for its potential environmental effects, I-69 has been a topic of discussion for a decade. Our Chamber of Commerce has a map that shows I-69 linking Mexico City and Monterrey with Memphis and continuing to Detroit and Montreal. It is not clear how much of I-69 is hype, but it is part of the NAFTA Superhighway.