Effects of free-trade agreements on South and North
► [Kind of document] This cartoon was designed by Barry Deutsch in 2001 for Dollar and Sense Magazine. [Author] B. Deutsch has a progressive sensibility.
► [Aim of the document] This document denounces all the consequences of NAFTA in the USA and in Mexico. [Historical background] NAFTA is a trilateral free-trade deal signed in 1992 between the USA, Canada and Mexico. This cartoon was also published at the beginning of G.W. Bush’s presidency.
► This document is a criticism of NAFTA. It shows the USA put many Mexican farmers out of business (speech bubble in the second panel). When NAFTA removed tariffs on corn and other grains, US farmers could export to Mexico below cost. Rural Mexican farmers could not compete because they received fewer subsidies than North American farmers. Mexico lost 1.3 million jobs in this sector between 1993 and 2005.
► Another disadvantage was that maquiladora workers were exploited; this is what the second part of the speech-bubble in the same panel tells us. US-owned companies employed Mexican workers near the border to assemble products for export to the USA cheaply. These workers have no labour rights or health protections, workdays stretch out to 12 hours or more, and 870,000 workers are under 13 years old (in 2011). As a result, US jobs were lost. Many manufacturing industries moved part of their production from high-cost US states. That is why a steel-worker is compelled to work in a fast food in the third panel.
► A third issue with NAFTA, shown in the first panel, is the response to NAFTA competitive pressure: Mexico’s environment has deteriorated. Mexican agribusiness has used more fertilizers and other chemicals since 1992. Rural farmers have expanded into more marginal land, resulting in deforestation.
► In the last panel, President G.W. Bush seems amazed by NAFTA’s effects, asking to his councilor if he can do more “like these”. The answer refers to FTAA (Free-Trade Area of Americas) an agreement similar to NAFTA, covering all the Americas.
This cartoon doesn’t mention the positive effects of NAFTA such as protection for intellectual properties.
This document presents negative arguments against NAFTA that is a social and environmental disaster. The same reasons were alluded to oppose to FTAA since 2001.