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NAFTA Expanding Despite Suffering

  • NAFTA Working for Everyone Except Americans: "Experts" acknowledge that NAFTA will grow into a hemispheric union, Americans are already suffering, but there's lots more ahead.
By James P. Tucker, Jr.

NAFTA experts acknowledged that the ultimate goal is the "political integration" of the Western Hemisphere similar to that of the European Union.

The acknowledgment came in a question-and-answer period during a panel discussion following release of a pro-NAFTA study February 6 in Washington.

Creating an "American Union" similar to the European Union is a major objective of the secret international Bilderberg group, which sees it as a major step toward a formal world government.

This question was addressed to all four panelist:

"As NAFTA expands throughout the Western Hemisphere as the 'Free Trade Area of the Americas,' will there be political integration similar to that of the European Union?"

"Yes, there will be more political integration," responded Robert Scott, an international economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

"It is important to compare NAFTA to the European experience," Scott said. "Europe had a number of trade agreements that led to the European Union."

He was referring to the earlier European Common Market and other deals.

European nations "agreed to transfer huge amounts of resources" in the process of achieving "political union," Scott said.

John Mutti, professor of economics at Grinnell College and author of the pro-NAFTA report, agreed that political integration of the Western Hemisphere is the ultimate goal but said it will be "more of a two-way development rather than the United States saying 'we are going to do it this way.'"

Mutti said, and his report argues, that NAFTA is not the miracle some supporters claim nor is it the evil critics charge but it should be continued and expanded.

President Bush is long on record as favoring a hemispheric "free trade" zone and is expected to ask Congress for "fast track" negotiation authority. This would allow Bush to negotiate a trade deal that Congress can vote up or down but not change.

Fast-track authority resulted in the birth of NAFTA on Jan. 1, 1994 by a lame-duck Congress.

The move toward an American Union is moving on many fronts.

Mexican President Vicente Fox said on Feb. 3 that he will press Bush on his "open borders" demand when the two meet Feb. 16. It will be Bush's first trip outside the country as President.

During his weekly radio address, Fox said he would ask Bush to grant amnesty to illegal Mexican aliens so they can receive the education and health benefits "they deserve."

For those who want to leave Mexico, Fox said, he would ask Bush to find a "documented way, so they can work, return home and see their families, then go back again.

Fox called for "open borders" with the United States immediately after his election in July.

Meanwhile, Bush was pushing for hemispheric integration on Feb. 5 while meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien in the White House.

"The biggest challenge in U.S.-Canada relations will be convincing Congress to pass a hemispheric free-trade agreement," Bush said after the meeting.

"We're going to have a summit in Quebec in April and I'm looking forward to being hosted by the prime minister," Bush said. "And the whole notion is to promote free trade and open markets around the hemisphere."

Chetien reaffirmed his long-standing support of world government in a speech to the Organization of American States the same day.

"Many look upon the powerful forces of economic globalization and technological change as the source of profound problems" such as poverty and political instability, Chretien said. "But Canada looks upon them as the key to solving them, to creating untold opportunities and shared prosperity from Tierra Del Fuego to Baffin Island."

At the same time, NAFTA was demonstrating its raw power over member states by compelling the United States to let its citizens be killed and maimed by unsafe and unlicensed Mexican trucks prowling freely across the nation.

A five-member NAFTA panel ruled that the United States cannot continue its policy of broadly prohibiting Mexican trucks from its highways for safety reasons. Decisions must be made on case-by-case basis, it said on Feb. 8.

The NAFTA agreement required the United States to open truck access to all states bordering Mexico in 1995 and to permit travel throughout the entire country as of Jan. 1, 2000.

Even before the anticipated decision was handed down, it was denounced by Public Citizen, An advocacy group established by Ralph Nader, in a scorching report.

"It is imperative that we continue to limit address for these dangerous trucks even if it means paying trade sanctions," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, in releasing the report. "It is impossible to inspect every truck and we cannot knowingly put drivers at risk by inviting dangerous rigs into U.S. high-ways."

"This ruling once again provides a dramatic example of how trade agreements such as NAFTA reach far beyond appropriate commercial issues and threaten vital domestic health and safety standards, even when those standards are applied equally t domestic and foreign commerce," said the group's trade specialist, Lori Wallach.

The report found that:

  • Fewer than one percent of Mexican trucks entering the United States are inspected, but 35 percent of those are taken out of service for serious safety failures (46 percent higher than the rate for U.S. trucks). The nation lacks both the facilities and personnel to inspect every truck.
  • Although Mexico pledged to institute a comprehensive truck safety program when NAFTA went into effect, seven years later that country still has not instituted an effective system. The new rules now in effect are voluntary and are to be phased in over the next two years.
  • Mexico does not limit the time drivers spend behind the wheel. Some are required to drive 36 hours straight with just a six-hour break before returning to the road.

The report quotes Lawrence Weintrob, former assistant inspector general of the Department of Transportation:

"We are going to see some frightening violations: air brakes that aren't responding; brake and tail lights that are not working or missing entirely. It's scary stuff."