In his first public appearance after six weeks of convalescence, Mexico’s President Vicente Fox greatly announced that the current phase of NAFTA is over, and that Mexico, the U.S., and Canada will embark in June on negotiations toward the “new phase of NAFTA.” What’s been entitled as the “NAFTA plus” would include, according to Fox, “more development, more trade, and more integration.”
Thisdeclaration caused immediate confusion among the other
signatories of the agreement, and even within the Fox cabinet.
The Canadian officials stated to the Mexican press, “We don’t
know what he’s referring to” and reported they have asked the
Mexican government for clarification. The meeting scheduled
for June actually presents private-sector involvement in development,
with Canada working asan observer, and has no such grand
plan on its agenda. Moreover, both the U.S. and Canada have
reiterated their position not to renegotiate any part of NAFTA
and neither of them has shown enthusiasm for Fox’s “NAFTA
Undaunted, the Fox cabinet instantly went to work to elaborate
policies to go along with the press declarations and two days later
the Secretary of Economyunveiled intentions to look for European
Union-style integration for North America, including a common
currency, free transit, and immigration agreements.
The NAFTA plus plan is being boosted by Mexico, precisely when
civil-society groups are pressuring to downscale NAFTA. The
huge farmers’ movement of the past six months demanded renegotiation
of the NAFTA chapter on agriculture, and despitesigning an
agreement that does not include reopening the trade agreement;
many organizations continue to insist on major changes.
What the farmers want above all, is to exclude corn and beans, which
would have zero tariffs by the year 2008. Their argument is that
tariff reduction in these basic staples has led to massive imports to the
detriment of small farmers and national foodsovereignty.
Mexican farmers aren’t the only ones boosting to reevaluate the
agreement. Several major Canadian and U.S. agricultural
organizations hope to take advantage of the Mexican demand to
reopen the agreement due to the damages it has had on small to
medium sized farms in those countries.
In addition to trade liberalization, citizen organizations have
pointed out that the problem isnot that other clauses of NAFTA
don’t go too far father than far enough. The range of Chapter 11
to protect foreign investors has come under fire, especially after
Mexico was forced to pay $15 million to the U.S. firm
Metalclad when its toxic dump project was cancelled by Mexican
authorities due to protests over environmental hazards.
Although the firm never obtained a local permit norcleaned up
the site, a NAFTA panel ruled that the government will
compensate it for its investment.
The attempt to include broader social issues in NAFTA
also does not go along well for a NAFTA plus. NAFTA’s
labor and environment side agreements have proved to be a
feeble forum for resolving serious problems stemming
from increased economic integration, and both are structurally
andpractically subordinated to the trade and investment plan
of the principal agreement.
In proposing a NAFTA plus, Fox seems to naively assume that
having conceded to a broadly inequitable free trade agreement
with its northern neighbors, Mexico is now “in the club” and
can expect privileged treatment on other issues. This assumption
has not been confirmed, as evidenced by the talks.
TRADUCCIÓNEn su primera aparición pública después de seis semanas de convalecencia, el presidente de México,
Vicente Fox, anunció con bombo que la fase actual del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del
Norte (TLCAN) ya terminó y que México, Estados Unidos y Canadá se embarcarán en junio en las
negociaciones tendientes a la “nueva fase del TLCAN”. Lo que ha dado por llamarse “TLCAN plus”
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