NAFTA 20 years later: North American leaders announce summit, promise NAFTA 2.0

NAFTA 2.0 by Terri Hall
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff
Judge Nelson Wolff

“Jobs, that’s what NAFTA brings to San Antonio,” bellowed Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff as he stood in the German-English School Courtyard in San Antonio, where leaders from Canada, Mexico, and the United States came together, yesterday, to announce a NAFTA business summit coming November 15-16. The summit commemorates the 20 year anniversary of the free trade agreement and will be held in San Antonio, the same city where NAFTA was symbolically signed on December 17, 1992, by United States President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Mexican President Carlos Salinas.

President Bill Clinton ushered it through Congress where it passed the Senate 61-38 and narrowly passed the House by a mere 34 votes on November 17, 1993. Clinton signed it into law December 8, 1993, and NAFTA took effect January 1, 1994. Even before NAFTA was ratified, it was the subject of much controversy and has been ever since.

Canadian Consul General Paula Caldwell St-Onge downplayed critics’ worries over sovereignty and jobs, “We heard dire warnings in our three countries about sacrificing our culture, losing our sovereignty, about losing jobs, of course, none of that happened. Indeed, free trade with the United States and Mexico didn’t hollow out our economy at all. It bolstered Canada into a new age of prosperity.”

Caldwell St-Onge pointed out Canada increased its trade with Mexico over 500% since the initial signing of NAFTA and noted that even in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, its unemployment rate is a full four percentage points lower than it was during its peak prior to NAFTA.

“We must never forget that NAFTA was the cornerstone of what we consider free trade. It lowered prices for all of our consumers and created supply chains…which drive the North American production platform that drives our three economies today,” she continued.

The Canadian Consul General also hinted at a possible expansion of NAFTA she referred to as NAFTA 2.0, “That’s why I’m happy to hear we’re going to be celebrating NAFTA and welcoming perhaps another NAFTA — a NAFTA 2.0.”

Raul Barocio, former head of the North American Development Bank and now a professor at University of the Incarnate Word heaped praise on Wolff prior to his introduction saying, “If I had to single out a person that epitomizes what NAFTA’s all about, I would point to Judge Nelson Wolff. He made a huge difference in how San Antonio became part of the NAFTA equation.”

Wolff called NATFA “a change agent for San Antonio, saying 1992 was a year that propelled San Antonio into international relations. The County Judge, who was then Mayor of San Antonio, recalled that it was February of 1992 when he first approached President Salinas to asked the three countries leaders to come to San Antonio to sign NAFTA.

“San Antonio was known as the most pro-NAFTA city in America,” heralded Wolff.

Wolff also credited NAFTA as bringing thousands of jobs to San Antonio like Toyota and the Port of San Antonio. Since Toyota is a Japanese firm, it seems like an odd pairing to credit a North American trilateral free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States as having to do with Toyota coming to San Antonio. San Antonio has its own sister city agreement with Kumamoto, Japan. In fact, Governor Perry has credited Toyota’s move to his taxpayer subsidy called the Texas Enterprise Fund, not NAFTA.

Even the Texas-Mexico Automotive SuperCluster (TMASC) didn’t appear on the scene until well after Toyota brought its plant to south San Antonio. Though initially Toyota is said to have brought 5,000 jobs to San Antonio, it faltered with the economic downturn in 2008 and had to shut down the plant completely for three months. Even since adding production of Tacomas to Toyota’s San Antonio Tundra plant, the facility has largely been underutilized in recent years, and it has not sustained the production schedule it once enjoyed.

NAFTA hurt U.S. jobs While Mexico and Canada may be able to claim lower unemployment rates, American workers are still experiencing high unemployment, many having given up looking for work altogether, and the country is seeing a record spike in people on food stamps and seeking disability benefits. The U.S. Labor Department documented at least one million U.S. manufacturing jobs went overseas due to NAFTA, and that’s just those who sought the Department’s help in job re-training programs.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) puts the number of total jobs lost closer to 700,000, according to its report by economist Robert Scott, entitled Heading South: U.S.-Mexico trade and job displacement after NAFTA, since the report takes into account the jobs created by NAFTA. Scott’s study also points out that though NAFTA is said to be a boost for Mexico, its economy has only grown, on average, 1.6 percent per capita from 1992 to 2007. The National Association of Manufacturing says the total number of manufacturing jobs lost due to imports from free trade partners is 4 million.

Another marker, the trade deficit between the three countries, also demonstrates how NAFTA has hurt, not helped, America. Prior to NAFTA taking effect, the United States enjoyed a $1.6 billion trade surplus with Mexico, but that trend was reversed by 1997 when Mexico’s trade surplus with the U.S. hit $16.6 billion. As of 2010, Mexico’s trade surplus over the U.S. reached $97.2 billion.

Indeed, with such a hit to U.S. labor, Barack Obama promised to either renegotiate NAFTA or pull out of the agreement altogether when he initially ran for President in 2008. Obama told Ohioans, hit hard with the loss of 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, “I don’t think NAFTA has been good for America, and I never have.”

And yet within months of taking office, he was backtracking, saying the three countries were in agreement that NAFTA needs to be strengthened after attending the Summit of the Americas in April 2009, and later re-affirmed at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara in August 2009. In February 2011, the Obama Administration signed onto new terms for a free trade agreement with South Korea, which took effect in March of this year. In July of 2011, Obama signed an agreement allowing Mexican truckers to operate in the United States, part of the cross-border trucking program requirements of NAFTA which was initially put-off by Congress who de-funded the program in 2009.

NAFTA Superhighways = North American Union? The jobs and trade deficit may be the most glaring drawbacks to NAFTA, but the march toward building a NAFTA superhighway system to advance the influx of goods changing hands between the three North American countries due to NAFTA has come with both a tremendous cost to the U.S. taxpayers, but also a very real loss of sovereignty over public infrastructure, particularly through public private partnerships (P3s). NAFTA superhighways will be the transportation corridors that make it all happen.

Originally dubbed the Trans Texas Corridor in Texas, four major trade corridors will run through Texas and eventually up into Canada: La Entrada al Pacifico, Ports to Plains, I-35, and I-69. Canamex will run from the border of Mexico through Arizona up into Montana connecting to Canada. But there are 12 total, with BC to Baja, Camino Real, Gulf Crescent, I-75, Spirit, North-South, and Trans-Can Connector rounding out the planned NAFTA superhighways (see larger map here).

Through inland ports designed to streamline and move the customs process inland, the U.S. has already ceded a piece of its national sovereignty by bringing a Mexican customs office to the Kansas City SmartPort, which is considered sovereign Mexican territory.  The $3 million facility was paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, not the Mexican taxpayer. The Kansas City SmartPort boasts it will speed the movement of goods from the deep-water port called Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico up into the interior of the United States — all without any meaningful inspection, and likely having never left the Mexican trucks that brought them into the U.S., posing yet another threat to American jobs and national security.

American sovereignty is further eroded by P3 toll concessions used as the financing mechanism to achieve the construction of the NAFTA superhighways, that not only take private property and hand it to a private corporation, but also grant those entities control over our public infrastructure through punitive toll rates, non-compete agreements, and profit guarantees. P3s represent eminent domain for private gain, since the land is taken using eminent domain for a ‘public use,’ a road, but then handed to a private, usually foreign, entity in long-term leases from 50-100 years.

Congress has called these NAFTA Superhighways ‘high priority corridors,’ and the George W. Bush Administration referred to them as ‘Corridors of the Future.’ They tie into the blueprint for global governance called Agenda 21 signed onto by President George H.W. Bush at the Rio Summit in 1992. This and his push for NAFTA are the signature hallmarks of Bush’s New World Order, eventually carried on by his son.

Subsequent federal highway legislation, ISTEA, SAFETEA-LU, and MAP-21 fund and prioritize the construction of the NAFTA trade corridors, unleashing P3s and other ‘innovative financing’ tools to saddle the U.S. taxpayer with financing these trade corridors that will weaken private property rights, our nation’s borders, and suppress American wages, all to benefit multi-national private corporations and global trade, not the American taxpayers.

Considering that the march toward economic integration of Europe began with labor and trade agreements and is the blueprint for what eventually became the European Union (now crumbling under economic crisis), there can be little doubt that NAFTA is what commenced the push for a North American Union, which according to U.S government documents and the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) signed by President George W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, and Mexican President Vicente Fox in Waco, Texas in 2005, would share a common security perimeter, common currency, and the free flow of people goods between the three countries.

In a White House press release in March 2006, it announced the formation of the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), as part of the SPP, whose goal is to create a trilateral regulatory framework by 2007: “We affirm our commitment to strengthen regulatory cooperation in this and other key sectors and to have our central regulatory agencies complete a trilateral regulatory cooperation framework by 2007.” Just as NAFTA takes the enforcement of the agreement out of the hands of U.S. courts, so would a North American Union.

One of the key high-level business leaders in the NACC, Angel Villalobos, describes it as “an umbrella organization within the SPP,” saying that the SPP was created to operate side-by-side with NAFTA. According to the Council of the Americas, the NACC is designed to continue the work of integration, prescribed by the SPP, through the change of administrations.

Since the U.S. membership in the NACC is comprised of business leaders across corporate America, like FedEx, Walmart, and GE, it’s effectively placing actual national policy-making, rather tri-national policy, in the hands of private corporations, not the citizens of the United States.

With the deep integration of policies and regulations advanced through the SPP, leaders of the three countries seem to have already secured a NAFTA 2.0. The attendance list for the first NACC meeting on June 15, 2006 shows Geri Word, deputy director of Office of NAFTA and Inter-American Affairs in the U.S. Department of Commerce attended, again linking the SPP and North American integration beyond just trade to NAFTA. Obama’s affirmation of trilateral cooperation at the North American Leaders’ Summit in August of 2009 seems to give further credence to the reality of a NAFTA 2.0 across administrations.

So despite all the rhetoric, the political risk, and economic fallout of NAFTA on America, the United States government continues to advance free trade and seeks to strengthen such agreements, not pull out of them.

Eduardo Bravo with the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos (AEM), a group of over 550 Mexican nationals who invest in U.S. businesses and one of the chief sponsors of NAFTA-20, emphasizes the long-term commitment to NAFTA and San Antonio’s central part in it, “With NAFTA-20 our goal is to increase business and understanding between Mexico and the United States and put San Antonio in the spotlight of international business and trade.”

Bravo signaled AEM’s plans to organize a NAFTA summit every two years “to continue an international dialogue on what can be done for trade and business between our two countries and Canada.”

“This event is a stepping stone between our past and future in order to allow continued success and improved relations between our countries,” Bravo commented. So come to San Antonio in November and learn what these tri-national leaders have in store for advancing free trade in North America (more information on the summit can be found here:

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Terri Hall founded the San Antonio TOLL Party in 2005 as a taxpayer revolt when she learned the Texas Dept of Transportation (TxDOT) was to convert her only access to San Antonio, Hwy 281, into a tollway, which is a double tax to charge taxpayers again for what they've already built and paid for. When she saw that this shift to tolling our existing freeways is happening nationwide, Terri started a statewide group called Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom or Texas TURF. She's a homeschool mom of seven turned citizen activist, and Terri has rallied her fellow Texans to stop this runaway taxation without representation, as well as to stop the international trade corridor known as the Trans Texas Corridor.