Iowa Public Television


NAFTA Leaders Meet

posted on April 25, 2008

Labor disputes aside, Florida's tomato industry also is being pressured by U.S. trade policy. Some groups always seem to fair better than others on any trade deal. But it's hard to imagine any sector has suffered more than the Florida tomato industry has under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

According to the Farm Bureau, 13,000 acres of tomatoes were grown in Miami-Dade County alone before NAFTA was enacted in 1994. Last season, the figure declined to 3,000.

So it's not surprising that a few eyebrows were raised in Florida this week when the leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada gathered to sing the praises of NAFTA.

NAFTA Leaders Meet With that President Bill Clinton signed, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, into law. The landmark trade agreement, now entering its 14th year, has been hailed as both boon and bane for the United States economy.

This week, President George Bush met with his counterparts from Canada, and Mexico. The three leaders took time to point out the benefits and successes they felt NAFTA has provided to North America.

President George W. Bush: "I wish people could remember what the border looked like between Texas and Mexico before NAFTA -- I mean, it was poor, really poor, on both sides of the border. If you go down there today, there's prosperity on both sides of the border, and that's in our nation's interests."

According to the Bush administration, NAFTA has

-helped triple trade since 1983 to an estimated $1 trillion between all three countries

-offered greater variety of better and less expensive goods and services

-encouraged businesses to increase investment in North America

-and helped to create millions of new jobs in all three countries.

President Felipe Calderon: "...after 14 years of a very decisive step, which was the North American Free Trade Agreement, today the relations between the United States, Canada and Mexico is more dynamic, more fluid, much more successful than ever before."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper: "It's clear that greater North American cooperation is our best option to create jobs and to compete effectively with emerging trading blocs elsewhere in the world."

Leaders from the three countries have been meeting to discuss how to improveme NAFTA since 2005. This year they discussed, among other things, ways to make the borders more secure, ensure compatibility of regulatory and inspection systems, and improve the North American energy market.

Critics have consistently bashed the trade agreement saying it is responsible for luring jobs south of the border and destroying the economy of towns that lost the jobs.

Candidates for the top U.S. political job have been on the same bandwagon. During this current election cycle, NAFTA has come under fire from the Democratic candidates for President. Both Senator Barrack Obama of Illinois and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York have stated the treaty has not been good for the United States and should be renegotiated.

Bush had an answer for NAFTA critics and urged future leaders to leave the treaty in place.

President George W. Bush: "Our economies have grown by more than 50 percent. Now is not the time to renegotiate NAFTA or walk away from NAFTA. Now is the time to make it work better for all our people, and now is the time to reduce trade barriers worldwide."

Tags: agriculture Canada industry Mexico news trade