January 3, 2008: Kaptur, Three House Colleagues Urge People-Centered Approach to Trade Issues

January 3, 2008
Press Release
“NAFTA has had a devastating, negative impact on jobs in America—especially in the manufacturing sector—and an equally damaging impact on the agricultural sector in Mexico,” said Kaptur.

“We have seen more than one million jobs leave the United States as a result of NAFTA—and that is a conservative estimate. Unless governments quit this race to the bottom and develop a more people-centered balanced approach to trade, opposition to NAFTA and globalization will continue to rise to new levels throughout the United States and the entire hemisphere.”

Full implementation of NAFTA took effect yesterday when the United States and Mexico eliminated remaining restrictions on agricultural exports, including corn, dry edible beans, nonfat dry milk and high fructose corn syrup from the U.S. as well as sugar and certain horticultural products from Mexico.

Congresswoman Kaptur and three House colleagues—Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), Hilda Solis (D-California) and Linda Sanchez (D-California) say full implementation will mean more social dislocation in Mexico and greater immigration to the United States.

In a letter to President Felipe Calderon, Congresswoman Kaptur and her colleagues urged the Mexican government “to protect Mexican communities and the livelihoods of thousands of white corn and bean farmers.” The U.S. representatives threw their weight behind a proposal by former Mexican Senator Victor Suarez and family farm organizations in Mexico to regulate the trade of white corn and beans in order to protect internal production and rural employment and stem the migration of displaced farmers.

“We are concerned...for the economic and social wellbeing of the Mexican people,” the four Members wrote in the letter to President Calderon. “(T)he zeroing out of tariffs on white corn and beans is sure to cause further destruction to the most vulnerable sectors of the Mexican economy ... We expect more of what we have seen in the earlier phases of NAFTA: more destitution and desperation of campesinos facing very few options, leading to a stronger drug trade and more migration.”

Congresswoman Kaptur has been a consistent critic of the executive agreement that was signed by U.S. President Bill Clinton, Mexican President Carlos Salinas, and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and approved by the U.S. Congress in 1993.

She is author of the NAFTA Accountability Act, which would require the President to withdraw the U.S. from the trade agreement unless certain benchmarks were met. Most of the benchmarks were initially promised by proponents of the agreement, including gains in U.S. jobs and living standards, increased U.S. domestic manufacturing, stronger health and environmental standards, especially with respect to food imports, decreased flow of illegal drugs from Mexico and Canada, and the guarantee of Mexican democracy and human rights.

Kaptur said Acting U.S. Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner reflected “alarming insensitivity to displaced workers in all three countries” yesterday when he described NAFTA as “a remarkable success story.”

The truth is that NAFTA turned an American trade surplus into a large and growing trade deficit with Mexico,” Kaptur said. “The red ink started flowing a year after NAFTA took effect and has increased steadily over the past 14 years. Last year’s trade deficit with Mexico exceeded $64 billion, and 2007 will set yet another new record, probably more than $70 billion in the red.”