The Coastal Post - December, 1995

NAFTA Equals Broken Promises Two Years Later

On the second anniversary of the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.) and 25 other House Members have called on Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer to convene oversight hearings on the implementation of NAFTA because promises made by NAFTA supporters have been broken.

"In 1993, NAFTA supporters promised this nation that if NAFTA was enacted, Mexico would establish higher environmental standards, and U.S. standards would be protected, the U.S. would enjoy a greater trade surplus with Mexico, and more American jobs would be created," said Miller. "But now what we see on the second anniversary of NAFTA is that the American people were misled. The promises made are now promises broken.

"And now, despite promises by Mexico that it would not seek to attack American environmental laws, Mexico has just pressured the United States into weakening one of the most popular U.S. environmental laws, the dolphin-safe tuna label. Why? Because it needs the money. Mexico lied to the U.S. about its economic solvency during the treaty debate, and now it is in a desperate search for hard currency. One way to get that cash is to break into the billion dollar tuna market from which it is currently forbidden entry."

Throughout the '70s and '80s, fishing techniques used to capture tuna also led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of dolphins. A consumer boycott of tuna, inspired by the outrage of children nationwide, led to the enactment in 1990 of a law establishing the Dolphin Safe label on tuna cans. The dolphin-safe label means that no dolphins are chased down, encircled by nets, or killed in the hunt for tuna. Nations that did not practice dolphin-safe tuna fishing techniques saw their products banned from the shelves of America's supermarkets, and most of the U.S. tuna fleet took up fishing in the western Pacific Ocean where dolphins do not swim with the tuna.

A proposal by Mexico and the Clinton Administration, now referred to as the Panama Agreement, would allow the netting and encirclement of dolphins, practices that will greatly increase the harm to and possible death of these highly intelligent mammals. This agreement would render the dolphin-safe tuna label fraudulent for cans containing Mexican tuna.

"NAFTA promises regarding an increase in our trade surplus with Mexico and increased American jobs have also been broken," Miller said. For example, in 1992 the U.S. had a trade surplus with Mexico of $5.4 billion. But in the first six months of 1995 alone, the U.S. ran a trade deficit with Mexico of $10.1 billion, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. This number is expected to rise to between $15 and $20 billion by the end of the year.

"The trade deficit with Mexico resulting from NAFTA has meant lost jobs in America," Miller said. "Supporters of NAFTA promised that the trade agreement would create 200,000 new jobs by the end of this year. In fact, the Department of Labor has certified that over 38,000 workers have lost their jobs because of NAFTA. An additional 30,000 workers have filed for assistance under the NAFTA Trade Adjustment Assistance program."

Corporate supporters of NAFTA also defaulted on their promises. Eighty-nine percent of the companies that promised they would create jobs in the U.S. have done nothing to fulfill that promise. In fact, key companies that led the pro-NAFTA fight—such as Allied Signal, General Electric, Mattel, Proctor and Gamble, Scott Paper and Zenith—have all laid off workers because of NAFTA.

"Confronted with the mounting evidence documenting the broken promise of NAFTA," Miller said, "the Clinton Administration should reject, at this time, any effort to extend NAFTA to Chile or the 23 Latin American countries within the Caribbean Basin. The Administration should also reject Mexico's strong push to weaken the dolphin-safe tuna standards we fought so very hard in this country to enact. To do otherwise would only perpetuate the broken promises made to the American people."

In the letter to Chairman Archer sent today, Miller and his colleagues specifically point out the failure of NADBank and the weak support by the World Bank for environmental cleanup loans. The letter also cites reports of labor abuses in Mexico despite pledges to protect labor rights.

"We believe the workability of the NAFTA environmental and labor side agreements are very much in question, and that the Congress should subject these agreements to detailed review, not only as an aspect of NAFTA oversight, but because of proposals to extend NAFTA and renew other trade laws that place the environmental and labor protection laws of the United States at risk," the letter states.