NAFTA at 10 | The Nation


NAFTA at 10

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A continental progressive movement would build on its existing infrastructure in each nation--labor, environmentalists, human rights activists, progressive churches and populist legislators--and the fact that the majority of ordinary citizens in all three nations want a market system with social protections.

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Jeff Faux
Jeff Faux is the founder and now Distinguished Fellow at the Economic Policy Institute. His latest book is The...

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Mexico's troubles illustrate the destructive effects of NAFTA's neoliberal economics.

One initial organizing step might be to connect existing demands to rewrite NAFTA. For example, over the past year Mexican farmers demonstrated throughout the country--including breaking down the door to the Mexican Congress--demanding that NAFTA's agricultural provisions be changed. Had US and Canadian small farmers, labor unions and environmentalists joined them with their own demands, the Mexican government would not have been able to isolate the farmers with the argument that changing NAFTA is politically impossible.

A new continental agreement could include financial assistance from the United States and Canada to Mexico for building the economic and social infrastructure it needs for growth, just as the European community has redistributed funds to its poorest members in order to create a stronger and more balanced economy. Continentwide enforceable labor, human rights and environmental protections ought to be established to prevent the erosion of living standards in Canada and the United States, and to insure that Mexican workers share in the benefits of rising productivity. Provisions of NAFTA that erode the ability of the local public sectors in all three countries to promote the welfare of their citizens should be stricken.

Progressive legislators in all three countries could begin working out proposals covering issues such as corporate governance, public health and safety, and investment in education that could be simultaneously introduced in all three capitals. A continental labor organizing campaign against a single employer could have an electrifying effect--demonstrating that workers in Canada, Mexico and the United States have more in common with one another than with the CEOs who may share their formal nationality.

Creating a continental political consciousness does not mean forming one nation. Few are ready for that--particularly the majority of Mexicans and Canadians appalled by the US governing class's current imperial obsessions. But despite all the obvious difficulties, if progressives do not want to see a continental society built on NAFTA's reactionary template, they have little choice but to grasp hands across the borders and work together to build an economy that serves the continent's "ordinary" people.

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