Mexico faced with NAFTA and the upcoming renegotiation

Apparently the Mexican government considers that Mexico should be subordinate to the United States.

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In these recent times, every day we read press declarations of the President of the Mexican Republic, Enrique Peña, and of diverse members of the cabinet, which reveal that – to say it in a few words – they do not know how to face the present dilemma of where the country that they are supposed to govern is heading. Two examples: the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray has not reacted to the onslaught made by the US Government, their principle commercial partner and ally on all fronts. Rivers of ink have been written on this. The second example is that on July 12 2017, the Secretary of Education, Arelio Nuño, promised that, in two decades, the Mexican population will speak English, without explaining the advantages of this strategy. There have also been rivers of ink written on the fact that the “educational reform” of the present government is not educational, but labour-oriented. What appears in the ideas of both government officials is their conviction


The President of the United States has unilaterally manifested his decision to renegotiate NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Treaty, because he is not in agreement with the participation of Mexico and considers that NAFTA has had a negative impact on his country over two decades in force. Despite its being a tripartite treaty, Canada does not appear in the discussion. As for the Government of Mexico, it has not manifested its position on the results of the Treaty and has remained silent with respect to whether such a renegotiation is convenient, why it would be convenient and the terms under which it should occur. The original agreement, signed in 1993, reflects the interests of big business of the United States, in good measure because the large companies of Mexico (like those of Canada) are scarce, are located in very specific economic sectors and do not have a significant presence in the three North American countries. In addition, one would have to revise, in the case of Mexico, the attitude of the government officials who negotiated in 1993. Did they recognize the national interest? The answer is probably NO and hence the results for the country (academic studies have not found positive results). Perhaps we would have to investigate the private interests of those officials for obtaining NAFTA at any price. Or is it pure ideology?


Moreover, the Foreign Ministry refuses to recognize that the US Government is hostile to Mexico. The Minister has declared that the principal threat, the construction of a big rampart (not a wall) and its financing, is not a matter for the bilateral relation between Mexico and that country. So what classification should it come under? It appears that the United States would prefer a more distant relationship, vis-à-vis the Cabinet that seeks subordination.


Various sectors of the national elite coincide with the opinion of the Mexican government: those who have houses in New York or Miami, who prefer publicity in Mexico to be in a foreign language and to have identical shops in both countries, that there be no national production. Curiously, in addition to the fact that the rich Mexicans maintain their financial activities and their property in the United States, they do not indicate defined economic interests in relation to that country.  What enterprises, what economic sectors there belong to Mexicans; what do Mexican companies export? That is to say, it is not evident why they want to maintain this economic relation in these terms and at any cost, from a national (in the sense of collective) point of view.


And then the issue of bilingual education appears, in English obviously, since no other language is worthwhile (in the opinion of the Government itself and those same groups). In economic terms, as things stand, the population needs to speak English to emigrate to the North, because the economic model that derives from the integration with the US (not with North America) implies that in Mexico there is not nor will there ever be quality employment and whatever may exist will be offered by foreign companies; and in any case the language of labour (not of business) is English. Spanish is left to a subordinate position, together with all the culture and the whole nation.


Similarly, the proposal of bilingualism does not recognize that in the country there exist segments of the population that, in the best of cases, reach this category, but from indigenous languages, with Spanish as the lengua franca. In this case it is the Secretary of Education; but similarly, the person in charge of the electoral body (INE) Lorenzo Córdova, demonstrated a case of ignorance and racism some years ago, when he publicly made fun of a citizen visiting his office and who did not speak Spanish correctly.


Curiously, the so-called Economic Cabinet has played a somewhat limited role in the upcoming renegotiation of NAFTA, from which one can deduce that the Government does not consider this problem to be of an economic nature, which is, at the very least, rather odd. Nor has the so-called “Civil Society” manifested much preoccupation for this issue. Apparently, Mexico believes that a subordinate position to the US is inevitable and what remains is for the population to continue growing (the family is a fundamental value) and emigrating, or to offer cheap but bilingual labour to those who wish to establish assembly plants in the national territory. A curious vision of economic development.



(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


- Fidel Aroche is a professor at the Faculty of Economics, UNAM. A founding member of Obela
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