The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 83.0°F | Partly Cloudy

NAFTA Proposal Nooot The Appropriate One

Congress is set to vote on the North American Free Trade Agreement on Nov. 17. NAFTA is on the fast track. This means that amendments to the agreement can not be made. As written, NAFTA is seriously flawed. Crucial issues such as safety conditions in the workplace, labor rights, and enforcement of environmental regulations are not sufficiently addressed.

NAFTA does not constitute a fair trade agreement, one that supports competitiveness by advocating tough environmental standards and fair treatment of laborers across the continent. We want a NAFTA, but not this NAFTA.

NAFTA does not help Mexican workers. Mexicans do not have the freedom to organize independent labor unions as they do in the United States. Workers who attempt to form independent unions are fired, blacklisted, or murdered. Furthermore, no occupational health or safety laws are in effect in Mexico; NAFTA makes no provisions for such laws.

The government controls the official union, CTM. The CTM, the government and corporations have agreed to keep wage increases below the inflation level. Thus, even if American products do find their way into Mexico under NAFTA, the average Mexican will still not be able to afford them. NAFTA does not address these issues.

U.S. environmental and consumer protection laws are at risk. NAFTA has been developed in conjunction with the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, an international trade agreement between 108 nations. GATT has the power to strike down any national, state, or local law which threatens the commercial interests of another GATT country. Any environmental or consumer law which is stronger than the international standard can be eliminated or severely weakened by GATT.

NAFTA's food standards would allow U.S.-banned chemicals on imported foods. The named international standards for food in NAFTA are those of the Codex Alimentarius, a United Nations sub-group whose standard-setting process has involved numerous food, chemical, and agribusiness companies. Codex allows chemicals long-banned in the United States, like DDT on grains and heptachlor on fruits and vegetables. NAFTA offers no protection against these events.

United States environmental health is at risk. Lax compliance with environmental laws in Mexico has caused pollution problems in the United States. The Nogales Wash, which flows between Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, is contaminated with industrial and residential sewage containing hundreds of known and suspected carcinogens. These chemicals have flowed north in an underground aquifer, contaminating a number of wells. The wells have since been shut down by health officials.

Show your support for fair trade. Call Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. at (617) 242-0200 and tell him to vote no on this NAFTA.

Susan M. Leite '93

for Share A Vital Earth