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The North American Free Trade Agreement

Thomas Shelton, CPA

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) started out as an agreement between the United States and Canada to remove tariffs between the two countries, taking affect January 1, 1989.  In 1991 talks between the two countries included Mexico and as a result of these talks NAFTA was born on January 1, 1984.  The contents of this agreement included the removal of most of the tariffs, barriers on cross-border flow of services, protection of intellectual property rights, restrictions on FDI, and creation of national environmental standards. (Hill, Global Business Today 6e)

There was much heated debate surrounding the implementation of this agreement from the citizens of all countries involved.  There seemed to be as many proponents to the agreement as there were in opposition to it.

The proponents could see the enlargement of the production capacity in the region, the ability to use lower cost wages, the ability to use comparative advantage to produce in a more efficient manner and have the ability to export goods produced to Mexico because of the higher rates of income the people of that country would be earning.

Those in opposition were contending that there would be a mass exodus of jobs to Mexico because of the lower costs of wages, less strict environmental standards and inadequate labor laws.  Also, environmentalists were concerned about the effects of pollution to the waterways and into the atmosphere.  Those in Mexico opposed because they felt they would lose their national sovereignty. (Hill, Global Business Today 6e)

The impact that has been seen thus far because of the NAFTA agreement includes facts such as a growth in exports especially in agricultural products. The FAS Backgrounder reported in May 2005 that “Together , our NATFA partners, Canada and Mexico, purchased $18.2 million worth of agricultural products” (http://www.fas.usda.gov/itp/Policy/NAFTA/nafts_backgrounder.htm)  Also, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative March 2008 NAFTA Facts (www.ustr.gov) trade has risen some $630 billion, employment rose 110 million, manufacturing output rose by 58%, the hourly wage rate has risen 1.5% per year, Mexican wages has risen and Canada and Mexico accounted for 37% of the growth of the U. S. agricultural exports since 1993.

Personal observations that have been noticed in West Tennessee coming what is believed the effects of the NAFTA agreement include the complete shutdown of manufacturing facilities engaged in the garment industry in several small towns.  As a result of these towns losing their main sources of labor supply, they have all but become isolated “ghost towns” that were once lively with good schools and pride in the activities these schools and communities  brought forth.  Now they are made up of generally older citizens with perhaps one convenience store to supply their needs if they even have that.

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