The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which became effective on January 1, 1994, is a comprehensive, rules-based agreement designed to promote “free-trade” among the United States, Mexico and Canada (NAFTA Forum,1998). Although the agreement was made between three countries, it was largely the inclusion of Mexico around which most of the oppositional debate was centered (Mayer, 1998). Canada is a modern, developed nation very similar in culture and economy to the United States. Mexico, however, is considered a developing nation with an economy much weaker than the United States. Still, a prior trade agreement did exist between the United States and Mexico. Therefore, in order to properly evaluate NAFTA, we must also take into account that prior trade agreement, the Border Industrialization Program (BIP) of 1965. The increase in maquiladoras on the U.S.-Mexico border, and its inherent problems, is a direct result of the BIP (Blank & Haar, 1998). The overall impact of the BIP on the U.S.-Mexico border and the maquiladora industry has been manifold, resulting in increases in maquiladoras, border population, environmental pollution and human social and health concerns. It is also important to recognize that prior to ratification of NAFTA, the Clinton Administration demanded, under pressure by environmental and labor groups, the attachment of two side agreements concerning labor and the environment. Although still too early to tell, NAFTA appears to be amending some of the inherent problems which exist along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Opposition to NAFTA must be placed in some historical context. During the 1980’s many American manufacturing jobs were being exported to Mexican maquilad...
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