Bill Clinton became president in 1993. He was not the most experienced when it came to foreign policy. By December, President Clinton had decided to take steps to unify relations with Mexico, Canada, and the United States by ratifying NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement). NAFTA was a “trilateral free trading agreement” that was aimed at generating jobs, helping the economy, and fixing relations. This removed trade barriers in North America. Also, the United States’ association with Canada and Mexico were becoming much stronger which could benefit each one of them economically.
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Many people were afraid of what this new trade agreement and what it was going to mean for their jobs such as small businesses. They had made assumptions that North America Free Trade Agreement was going to mean that Canada and Mexico were going to be stealing jobs because of stronger relations between the United States and these countries. The problem was that without these restrictions, businesses could assemble to Mexico, where people would work for much lower pay. There were widespread layoffs because of the many businesses that were threatening to leave the country and therefore lowering wages for the working people.
Trade wise, NAFTA was a catastrophe for domestic manufacturing and agriculture. Although NAFTA was meant to help the United States’ already failing agricultural industry, it did the exact opposite. With a cut in tariffs, it allowed for Mexico and Canada to flood the United States with cheap agriculture products. It caused the agricultural industry to have to compete with foreign markets, which made it very hard for them to survive. It was not just the agricultural market that began to fail when it was forced to compete with cheap foreign products; the manufacturing industry also had a very difficult time as well. On the opposite side, many argue that the United States had a huge advantage. 20 years later, people supporting NAFTA say that the U.S. has a trade surplus with Mexico and Canada, and therefore benefits from this.
During debate on the legislation, “environmental lobbyists” saw an opportunity to include part of the legislation that intended to keep the environment cleaner in Canada, Mexico, and The United States. This legislation tried to start different organizations to make sure that the environment was going to be taken care of with different clauses in the legislation. “Environmental lobbyists” wanted to ensure that while trade and businesses were going to thrive, the environment’s protection was not going to take a backseat. The problem was, the provisions inside NAFTA were weak. President Clinton wanted to make a legacy for himself with NAFTA by promoting a more peaceful, successful, and cleaner environment globally. The problem stemmed from applying these policies, which turned out to be weak for environmental protection. This was very risky and jeopardized the legitimacy of NAFTA. During the writing of the legislation, there were steps taken by Mexico and the United States to sign a bilateral Border Environment Cooperation Commission to preserve the border between the United States and Mexico.
The problem with NAFTA was that almost twenty years later, trading between the United States and Mexico is still fairly unchanged. NAFTA’s main purpose of stabilizing relations between the two countries was not changed nor was the labor market. This is true because many believe that free trade between the three countries has stagnated. Without stronger trading, this correlated to the jobs market also stagnating.
Clinton also wanted to focus on competition. He believed that in a time where the world was becoming more competitive, this free trade agreement would strengthen the United States, Mexico, and Canada equally. He was right to believe that the legislation would have international affects. At the time, NAFTA was very powerful globally. It was the largest trade agreement of its time and was very promising. It promoted global unity and set a precedent that free trade was the future of global marketing. Almost twenty years later, it seems that NAFTA pioneered this very Free trade friendly market.
President Clinton was very confident in the effects of NAFTA even before the legislation was signed into law. He was already planning on ways to start a global free trade agreement in order to promote global peace. He assumed that this legislation would be the start of something much larger and although it did work to unify North America, there is still failure to have such a project on the global scale (including all nations).
Nowadays, NAFTA has begun to lose its influence. Politically, North America is less united now than ever before. NAFTA has also decreased trading wise. Many have changed their view on NAFTA from being a very successful and optimism to an outdated trade agreement that should be discarded. With a lack of support, NAFTA has become obsolete. Bill Clinton had left a legacy for himself with NAFTA, which was a very promising piece of legislation.
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