Wednesday, December 18, 2013

NAFTA at 20: Free Trade and Closed Borders

The January/February 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs has a feature on "NAFTA at Twenty: Three Takes on the Historic Free-Trade Agreement."  It includes 

NAFTA’s Economic Upsides by Carla A. Hills

“NAFTA was the first comprehensive free-trade agreement to join developed and developing nations, and it achieved broader and deeper market openings than any trade agreement had before,” writes Hills, a former U.S. trade representative who negotiated that historic treaty.

NAFTA’s Unfinished Business by Michael Wilson

Wilson, chair of Barclays Capital Canada and former Canadian minister of international trade during the NAFTA negotiations, laments that although the treaty succeeded in liberalizing trade among Canada, Mexico, and the United States, “those of us who championed NAFTA hoped the agreement would be something more: a means to deepen integration among the three economies.” Wilson’s vision for greater integration in the future includes improved collaboration on border security, reducing regulatory differences to spur freer trade, and greater cooperation on energy security.

NAFTA’s Mixed Record by Jorge G. Castañeda 

“It would be overly simplistic to credit NAFTA for Mexico’s many transformations, just as it would be to blame NAFTA for Mexico’s many failings. The truth lies somewhere in between,” offers Castañeda, former foreign minister of Mexico.

Not long after the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994, I published an article looking at the trade accord from an immigration prospective.  See Free Trade and Closed Borders: NAFTA and Mexican Immigration to the United States.  I  lamented that labor migration had been off the table in the negotiations and that the final agreement did not in any meaningful way address labor migration.  

There was hope that NAFTA might, as Michael Wilson writes, lead to greater integration between the North American economies and possibly even freer labor migration as developed in the European Union.  As discussed here, that integration for a variety of reasons has not come to fruition.  We can only hope that the future will see the nations of North American seek to regularize labor migration among the three neighbors for the benefit of all.


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