<eng>Chomsky Interview on Nafta, Apr 9

The Anarchives (tao@lglobal.com)
Wed, 10 Apr 1996 15:13:20 +0000 (GMT)


From: Fred G. Athearn <fga@maple.sover.net>
Subject: Chomsky Interview on Nafta

[Q]
NAFTA and GATT -- who benefits?

[Chomsky]
The last US-based typewriter company, Smith Corona, is moving to
Mexico. There's a whole corridor of maquiladoras [factories where
parts made elsewhere are assembled at low wages] along the border.
People work for five dollars a day, and there are incredible levels
of pollution, toxic waste, lead in the water, etc.

One of the major issues before the country right now is the North
American Free Trade Agreement. There's no doubt that NAFTA's going to
have very large effects on both Americans and Mexicans. You can
debate what the effect will be, but nobody doubts that it'll be
significant.

Quite likely the effect will be to accelerate just what you've been
describing -- a flow of productive labor to Mexico. There's a brutal
and repressive dictatorship there, so it's guaranteed wages will be
low.

During what's been called the "Mexican economic miracle" of the last
decade, their wages have dropped 60%. Union organizers get killed. If
the Ford Motor Company wants to toss out its work force and hire super
cheap labor, they just do it. Nobody stops them. Pollution goes on
unregulated. It's a great place for investors.

One might think that NAFTA, which includes sending productive labor
down to Mexico, might improve their real wages, maybe level the two
countries. But that's most unlikely. One reason is that the repression
there prevents organizing for higher wages. Another reason is that
NAFTA will flood Mexico with industrial agricultural products from the
United States.

These products are all produced with big public subsidies, and they'll
undercut Mexican agriculture. Mexico will be flooded with American
crops, which will contribute to driving an estimated thirteen
million people off the land to urban areas or into the maquiladora
areas -- which will again drive down wages.

NAFTA will very likely be quite harmful for American workers too. We
may lose hundreds of thousands of jobs, or lower the level of jobs.
Latino and black workers are the ones who are going to be hurt most.

But it'll almost certainly be a big bonanza for investors in the
United States and for their counterparts in the wealthy sectors in
Mexico. They're the ones -- along with the professional classes who
work for them -- who are applauding the agreement.

[Q]
Will NAFTA and GATT essentially formalize and institutionalize
relations between the North [prosperous, industrialized, mostly
northern nations] and the South [poorer, less industrialized, mostly
southern nations]?

[Chomsky]
That's the idea. NAFTA will also almost certainly degrade
environmental standards. For example, corporations will be able to
argue that EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] standards are
violations of free-trade agreements. This is already happening in the
Canada-US part of the agreement. Its general effect will be to drive
life down to the lowest level while keeping profits high.

It's interesting to see how the issue has been handled. The public
hasn't the foggiest idea what's going on. In fact, they can't know.
One reason is that NAFTA is effectively a secret -- it's an executive
agreement that isn't publicly available.

In 1974, the Trade Act was passed by Congress. One of its provisions
was that the Labor Advisory Committee -- which is based in the unions
-- had to have input and analysis on any trade-related issue.
Obviously that committee had to report on NAFTA, which was an
executive agreement signed by the president.

The Labor Advisory Committee was notified in mid-August 1992 that
their report was due on September 9, 1992. However, they weren't given
a text of the agreement until about 24 hours before the report was
due. That meant they couldn't even convene, and they obviously
couldn't write a serious report in time.

Now these are conservative labor leaders, not the kind of guys who
criticize the government much. But they wrote a very acid report.
They said that, to the extent that we can look at this in the few
hours given to us, it looks like it's going to be a disaster for
working people, for the environment, for Mexicans -- and a great boon
for investors.

The committee pointed out that although treaty advocates said it won't
hurt many American workers, maybe just unskilled workers, their
definition of "unskilled worker" would include 70% of the
workforce. The committee also pointed out that property rights were
being protected all over the place, but workers' rights were scarcely
mentioned. The committee then bitterly condemned the utter
contempt for democracy that was demonstrated by not giving the
committee the complete text ahead of time.

GATT is the same -- nobody knows what's going on there unless they're
some kind of specialist. And GATT is even more far-reaching. One of
the things being pressed very hard in those negotiations is what's
called "intellectual property rights." That means protection for
patents -- also, things like software, records, etc. The idea is to
guarantee that the technology of the future remains in the hands of
multinational corporations, for whom the world government works.

You want to make sure, for example, that India can't produce drugs for
its population at 10% the cost of drugs produced by Merck
Pharmaceutical, which is government supported and subsidized.
Merck relies extensively on research that comes out of university
biology laboratories (which are supported by public funds) and on all
sorts of other forms of government intervention.