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Put brakes on fast track trade authority | Letter
I fervently urge Adam Smith to vote “no” on fast track trade authority. It is imperative that the House reject this bill and maintain its constitutional authority over trade deals.
Negotiations on this treaty have been suspiciously secret; the U.S. public and the press are locked out. However, leaked texts have provided insight into what the negotiating parties have agreed upon. Among other troubling provisions, there are the special privileges and benefits for firms that take offshore investment and jobs away from the U.S.
The agricultural provisions of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which removed Mexican tariffs on corn imports and eliminated programs supporting small farmers but did not discipline U.S. subsidies, led to widespread dislocation in the Mexican countryside.
Amidst a NAFTA-spurred influx of cheap U.S. corn, the price paid to Mexican farmers for the corn that they grew fell by 66 percent after NAFTA, forcing many to abandon farming.
Mexico’s participation in NAFTA also helped propel a change to the Mexican Constitution’s land reform, undoing provisions that guaranteed small plots – “ejidos” – to the millions of Mexicans living in rural villages.
As corn prices plummeted, indebted farmers lost their land, which newly could be acquired by foreign firms that consolidated prime acres into large plantations. As a result, 1.1 million small farmers – and 1.4 million other Mexicans dependent upon the farm sector – were driven out of work between 1993 and 2005.
Wages dropped so precipitously that today the income of a farm laborer is one-third that of what it was before NAFTA. As jobs disappeared and wages sank, many of these rural Mexicans emigrated, swelling the ranks of the 12 million illegal immigrants living incognito and competing for low-wage jobs in the United States.
Also, fueled by easy access because of NAFTA, the Mexican drug trade has made a handful of drug kingpins as powerful as any government official in Mexico. It has also led to widespread violence, which is beginning to spread over the Mexican border into the U.S.
NAFTA was supposed to allow Mexican trucks full access to U.S. roadways by 1995, however, opposition led by safety advocates and organized labor managed to keep the borders closed to Mexican trucks, more or less. Since 1982, Mexican trucks have been allowed to go 20 miles deep into the U.S., at which point they must unload their cargo onto an American truck.
Critics of the program point to the specter of illegal drugs, the sale of which are fueling turf wars in Mexico, flooding the American market as a clear reason why the program should remain defunct.
NAFTA has driven many legitimate Mexican farmers out of business, and many have turned to drug cultivation, charges Charles Bowden, author of “Down By The River,” and other acclaimed books about the drug business.
“It’s one of the unintended consequences of NAFTA,” he says.
He is not alone. Ask many Mexican illegal immigrants why they make the trek north and they will tell you about their inability to make it in their own country as small farmers – since NAFTA and the increase of duty-free U.S. products into the country.
Because of this actual history, I need you to tell me how you are going to vote on this important issue. And, if you insist upon voting for this travesty against American workers and interests, what are you going to do to replace the American jobs that will be stolen by this treaty?
Karen Backman, Federal Way