Clock Ticking on NAFTA

You may have thought NAFTA was old news. But surprisingly, over a decade later, it still has not been fully implemented. Because NAFTA was so controversial in all three countries when it came into effect in 1994, the deal delayed implementation of the final agriculture provisions until January 1, 2008. And those final provisions are a big deal - particularly for Mexico. In January, NAFTA will require the removal of tariffs on white corn, beans, powdered milk, and other staple foods for many Mexicans.

Thirteen years of experience says the removal of those tariffs will be devastating for Mexico's food producing economy. Following the passage of NAFTA and the first wave of tariff reductions, U.S. agriculture exports to Mexico exploded. According to a USDA analysis that compared the time periods 1991-93 to 2003-05, U.S. agriculture exports to Mexico increased by 522 percent for corn, 381 percent for wheat, 329 percent for rice, 373 percent for soybeans, and 455 percent for pork.

IATP's A Fair Farm Bill and Immigration documents how agricultural employment in Mexico lost more than 2 million jobs from the early 1990s to 2006. Many former Mexican farmers have been forced to come to the U.S. to find work, as Claudia Melendez Salinas of the Monterrey Herald reported in an excellent article earlier this month.

Mexican farm groups are worried. Last week, Mexican sugar farmers shut down the country's sugar mills, demanding a price increase before the January 1 deadline which will open the border to high fructose corn syrup from the U.S.

Mexican farm groups are asking their legislature to suspend the final provisions of NAFTA, renegotiate the agreement to prioritize food sovereignty, and invest in modernizing Mexico's agriculture. Earlier this week, over 70 U.S., Canadian and international organizations wrote to leaders of the three NAFTA countries expressing support for the Mexican farm groups' proposal. IATP's Steve Suppan will present the letter to Mexican farm groups at a press conference later this week in Mexico City.

In a December 12 press release, the National Family Farm Coalition's George Naylor and the Canadian National Farmers Union's Darrin Qualman point out that NAFTA and free trade agreements have not benefitted U.S. or Canadian farmers either - and instead the big beneficiaries have been multinational agribusiness companies. The NFU Canada has a great little report looking at how Canadian farmers have faired since free trade agreements with the U.S. first came into effect in 1988.

IATP's Steve Suppan will report more next week on efforts by Mexican farm groups to suspend NAFTA following his trip to Mexico City.