The North American Free Trade Agreement (or NAFTA) is a treaty that facilitates free trade between its signatory nations Canada, The United States, and Mexico. When signed in 1994 it was heralded as a way to bring greater economic prosperity to all three nations involved in the agreement by way of eliminating tariffs on trade and other encumbrances to trade between the three nations. For thepurposes of this policy discussion we will focus on the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico within the wider North American free trade zone.
The idea behind NAFTA, as it pertains to the U.S. and Mexico, is that with the
elimination of trade barriers between the two nations (amongst other stipulations of the agreement), Mexico’s economy would benefit from increased trade with the U.S. and thatthe U.S. economy would benefit from cheaper imported products.
Maquiladora’s established on the Mexican side of the U.S./Mexico border import, duty free, machinery, equipment and primary goods from the U.S., produce secondary goods and then export these secondary goods back to the U.S. This, in theory was to increase employment on the Mexican side of the U.S./Mexico border region while providingU.S. consumers with cheaper products because of the cheaper labor used to produce said products.
Indeed trade did increase. According to Gretel C. Kovach of The New York Times (citing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), there was $81 billion in trade between the U.S. and Mexico in 1993, while that number ballooned to $332 billion in 2006 (Kavach).
Although NAFTA opened up U.S. borders to Mexicanexports, it also opened up Mexican borders to U.S. exports. U.S. agricultural exports would explode onto the Mexican market. The United States subsidizes a litany of different agricultural commodities, and as such these commodities are more competitive than their Mexican counterparts. This has had the effect of driving small Mexican farmers from rural areas into cities because they simply can notcompete with U.S. subsidized wheat, grain, corn, rice etc. This has been a boon for U.S. agro-business conglomerates, and a detriment to small Mexican farmers. This is one example of an unforeseen negative externality of NAFTA; but not the only one.
Another externality caused simply by virtue of the increase in trade between the two nations, is the increase in traffic on the U.S. Mexican border;specifically international trucking. According to an article submitted to the Congressional record in 1997 by House member Marcia Kaptur (D-OH 9), there were 1.9 million trucks that crossed the U.S./Mexico border in 1993 before NAFTA was signed. In 1994 however (after NAFTA was signed), that number burgeoned to 2.8 million. This incredible increase in international trucking is attributed to NAFTA.According to Agustin De La Rosa of the Texas Department of Transportation, that number had grown to 4.76 million trucks in 2007. This shows a steady growth in the number of trucks crossing the border annually.
The problem with this is that as legal international trucking grows over time, the likelihood of catching smugglers that use traditional access points on the border drops inversely. Thereason for this is that there are only a finite amount of trucks that can be inspected in a day. However many that number is, it remains constant. Even if new trucking routes are established, those routes will only be able to be inspected a finite amount of times in a day also. In fact the United States only inspects %5 of all Imported containers according to the National Border Patrol Counsel. Thisis an issue that will become more and more serious as time goes on. As shown above, the amount of trade between the U.S. and Mexico is steadily increasing along with the amount of transportation of goods that facilitates it.
This problem is directly related to the Mexican Drug War. In that same article submitted to the congressional record by Rep. Marcia Kaptur (D-OH9)
“Drugs are a...
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