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North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)



The North American Free Trade Agreement took effect on January 1, 1994.

NAFTA opponents – including labor, environmental, consumer and religious groups – argued that NAFTA would launch a race-to-the-bottom in wages, destroy hundreds of thousands of good U.S. jobs, undermine democratic control of domestic policy-making and threaten health, environmental and food safety standards.

NAFTA promoters – including many of the world's largest corporations – promised it would create hundreds of thousands of new high-wage U.S. jobs, raise living standards in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, improve environmental conditions and transform Mexico from a poor developing country into a booming new market for U.S. exports.

Why such divergent views? NAFTA was a radical experiment – never before had a merger of three nations with such radically different levels of development been attempted. Plus, until NAFTA, "trade" agreements only dealt with cutting tariffs and lifting quotas to set the terms of trade in goods between countries. But NAFTA contained 900 pages of one-size-fits-all rules to which each nation was required to conform all of its domestic laws – regardless of whether voters and their democratically-elected representatives had previously rejected the very same policies in Congress, state legislatures or city councils. Continue reading...

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