NAFTA and its ramifications

The NAFTA contract has had many unintended or intended consequences. One of which is the removal of indigenous peoples in Mexico from their traditional homelands. In already impoverished areas, NAFTA has created greater impoverishment. Monocropping land in traditional farm areas is now common place. For those indigenous people supporting themselves is no longer feasible. These people travel to the United States for the simple fact of survival. If we take a deep look at our policies we can see that NAFTA only benefits the large corporations and not the people on any country involved. 

Carol Hawkins
Spring 2010

What is NAFTA?

NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement. This is a trilateral trade agreement between The United States, Canada and Mexico. It helps eliminate trade barrier and seemingly opens up free trade within the trilateral group. The elimination of tariffs appears to be good for trade in all directions, although Canadian-US trade was duty free at the time of NAFTA’s implementation. The agreement was signed into effect in 1994. G.H.W. Bush was the president at the time of NAFTA being drafted. Ultimately Clinton was the president when it was ratified. In all three countries there was a change in leadership before the ratification of the treaty. In a seemingly act of growth and progress the treaty was signed, but seems to have forgotten those in the rural areas and the labor forces.

As with most treaties, NAFTA looks great on paper, but in reality is more about GDP and profits for big corporations. It allows large corporations to outsource their labor into Mexico with no real monetary stipends. Outsourcing for cheaper labor with no tariffs or embargos to pay, make great financial sense for a large corporation. Unfortunately the cheaper labor often gets sucked into the loop of poverty and the labor force in the home country is now out of work. In retrospect this is a lose lose situation for both labor forces, but a huge win for the corporations.

What is the impact of NAFTA?

Initially the impact of this free trade agreement seems positive. The positive impacts are that Bill Clinton negotiated environmental and labor guidelines to ensure fair practices with Mexico, specifically. Seeing stricter regulations on labor and environmental impacts are a positive outcome. Unfortunately in reality these regulations are often overlooked or stepped around to ensure profits are still kept up.
There is also a dark side to the treaty. A huge negative is that it puts a strangle upon rural farmers, who are powerless within the guidelines of the treaty. By opening up trade with the US, Mexico is now importing much of its agricultural needs and the rural farmers are being pushed deeper into poverty. Allowing free trade also opened up the borders for US agribusinesses such are Con-Agra and Montsanto to promote mono-culture agricultural practices and exploit resources for purely profit. Monsanto can now export GMO seeds to rural farms in Mexico and maintain its monopoly on crop seeds. The idea that the tainted food supply and agricultural practices of The US are now enabled to flow outside our boarders is a very scary and unsustainable concept. The current condition of the World’s agricultural practices mainly stem from US farm practices. Sadly these practices are only now being scrutinized and questioned. In reality the practices are not what they were initally intentioned for. Genetic modification was supposed to help end hunger, in reality the farm practices are promoting hunger in places outside of our own borders. As we see the US way of life moving outside the borders, we can see hunger increasing around the world.

Outsourcing factories to Mexico has been an impact as well. The loss of US jobs is the foremost argued point against renewing or continuing NAFTA. Cheap labor is bad for our own workforce, but in those countries where the labor is found, they are then locked into a relationship that perpetuates poverty. By taking the jobs they are then dependent on them, and rules and regulations can be implemented by the corporations to keep the employees loyal to the corporation rather than create a fair and competetive market. Developing farm lands into industrial areas limits the types of work available to the residents. Polluting not only the environment with chemical and industrial waste but also infiltrating the local market and economy with cheap and often toxic goods ruins a free system that was in place. Bartering is no longer an option, neither is gathering in the fields for the days food supply.

Hegemony of Globalization

Hegemony is the inference of power and control. Globalization is the integration of social, economic and cultural facets of several nationalities. Globalization occurs most often through trade and technology. NAFTA truly assisted in the Globalization of North America, but even more significant is the idea that the United States is the dominate power in the pact. Canada and the US had a previous trade agreement, but by adding in Mexico the power tipped to the US. In the World, the USA is considered a World Power, if not the most influential power in the World. Our technology and our way of life have seeped into the rest of the World. Capitalism is the one thing that Globalization promotes. The hegemony of Capitalism is powerful. Other countries see the US and lifestyles of some of the influential in the US as the ultimate goal. Sadly this is now being seen as destructive and unsustainable.

NAFTA created the ability to push our influence not only into Mexico but also into Latin America. The impact of this treaty is profound and sadly our influence is increasing. Before, during the cold war our interest in Latin America and Mexico was about shutting out communism. In the World today we see it more as a market to exploit. Large US corporations are moving into countries outside the US to avoid US environmental and social rules. We have seen corporations across the World exploit the poor before NAFTA in countries outside of our backyard.

One goal of NAFTA that seems to have failed was the reduction of illegal immigration across the Mexican- US border. It seems the treaty failed to account for those individuals that did not want to live in the hegemony of US influence, but rather exploit US profits for self gain. Working under the table and living in small cheap places with many others solely to gain as much money as possible to return back home to their families, is the goal of many illegal aliens. It seems to be not so much about living here and prospering as exploiting until caught and being able to support one’s family for as long as possible. Many illegals cross the border many times and get deported just as many times. It seems to not be so much about living within our society but exploiting it to turn a profit and not pay taxes or pay into the system as long as possible. (This is purely my own observation from conversations with some illegal neighbors I had.)

NAFTA created one hegemony of globalization that still stands. Although our government is focused on the War on Terror and Muslim affiliated countries, our corporate world is profitting on the backs of the imporversed from areas outside our boarders. I cannot account for how the treaty impacts Canada, since we had a tariff free trade arrangement already, but I can certainly see the impact at our southern border.

Schlossler, Eric (2001). Fast Food Nation: The Darker Side of the All American Meal. New York, Houghton Mifflin Books.
Spurlock, Morgan (Executive Producer). Koons, Deborah (Director). (2004). The future of food (Motion Picture). United States of America. Lily Films.


Wikipedia, Globlization: Author Unknown

Wikipedia, Hegemony: Author Unknown
Wikipedia, NAFTA: Author Unknown

Other online articles:
Carlson, Laura and Tom Berry, US Hegemony and global Neighbor. Resources found @ website:
Burke, Melvin: The Human Costs of NAFTA; Proposed North American Free Trade Agreement; Includes glossary and economic terms. Resources found @ website:

Duke Library References: Author Unknown. Resourcs found @ website:
Official NAFTA Drafts for Agriculture: Author Unknown Resources found @ website:

Just consider our role next time you want to blame the immigrants for stealing our jobs. Seriously take a deep look at your own actions.


9 thoughts on “NAFTA and its ramifications

  1. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who does knows what they’re talking about on the internet. You as it happens know how to bring an issue to light and make it absorbing. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  2. Thank you, I just started this account last week. I think that is why I have no traffic yet. I wrote that paper for one of my classes last year. I have posted it on my facebook before and it seemed to elicit a variety of emotional responses. By taking the time to read this, my hope is that if you do not agree with me, you at least thought about the subject and questioned why I might believe this to be true. It had opened up the dialogue with many people who may not agree with me, but they have conceded that the points I make made them think about it and question their own interpretations.

  3. You said it! Just pleasing! Your writting manner is pleasing and the way you managed the subject with grace is worth taking notice. I am intrigued, I presume you are an expert on this topic. I am signing up for your updates from now on.

    • I am no expert. This was written for a class in grad school. I felt that it was relevant and it took me a ton of research to formulate this perspective. Most people do not understand how significant this Act was to countries south of the United States. When we focus on improving trade, the environment and social justice aspects are too often misguided.

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