The North American Free Trade Agreement took effect on January 1, 1994.
NAFTA requires limits on the safety and inspection of meat sold in our grocery stores; new patent rules that raised medicine prices; constraints on your local government's ability to zone against sprawl or toxic industries; and elimination of preferences for spending your tax dollars on U.S.-made products or locally-grown food. In fact, calling NAFTA a "trade" agreement is misleading, NAFTA is really an investment agreement. Its core provisions grant foreign investors a remarkable set of new rights and privileges that promote relocation abroad of factories and jobs and the privatization and deregulation of essential services, such as water, energy and health care.
Remarkably, many of NAFTA's most passionate boosters in Congress and among economists never read the agreement. They made their pie-in-the-sky promises of NAFTA benefits based on trade theory and ideological prejudice for anything with the term "free trade" attached to it.
Now, twenty years later, the time for conjecture and promises is over: the data are in and they clearly show the damage NAFTA has wrought for millions of people in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Thankfully, the failed NAFTA model — a watered down version of which is also contained in the World Trade Organization (WTO) — is merely one among many options.
Throughout the world, people suffering with the consequences of this disastrous experiment are organizing to demand the better world we know is possible — but we face a race against time. The same interests who got us into NAFTA are pushing to expand it to include 31 more countries in Central and South America through the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) Peru was added in 2007; and there are NAFTA expansions with Panama and Colombia as well. The largest NAFTA expansion to date, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is currently under negotiation.