Monday, November 1, 2010

Letter to the Times on NAFTA (Oct. 2010)

Kate Riley makes a seemingly straightforward case for allowing Mexican truckers onto U.S. highways: Washington apple growers are being hit with a 20 percent tariff on their exports to Mexico [“Obama administration needs to resolve Mexican tariff dispute,” Opinion, Oct. 26]. It is time, she opines, for the Obama administration to meet its NAFTA obligations and open up the highways.

What she leaves out, though, would be the impact of the loss of American jobs to Mexican truckers. In fact, not only would we lose trucking jobs but the lower labor costs would exert downward pressure on all our wages. And that is what NAFTA and free-trade advocates don’t tell us. They promote a “race to the bottom” that hurts both U.S. and Mexican workers, while increasing profits for corporations, now “free” to troll for the lowest wages.

If the Obama administration were really intent on meeting NAFTA obligations, why does it not enforce the labor standards that were once-upon-a-time part of the agreed-upon side agreements used to sell NAFTA to the American people? Instead, conservative Mexican president Calderón is now “free” to use brutal military repression on striking workers at the Cananea copper mine, for instance. Without a peep from Obama; or The Seattle Times for that matter!

In any case, what sense does it make, in a time when we ought to be decreasing our carbon footprint, that we entice Mexican workers (forced off their land by cheap U.S. agricultural imports) to come to Washington state to pick apples destined for the Mexican market? Why not promote the Mexican apple market by encouraging the Mexican apple industry to produce locally?

— Colin Wright, Seattle