The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented to promote trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico. The agreement, which removed most tariffs on trade between the three countries, came into force on 1 January 1994. Between 1 January 1994 and 1 January 2008, many tariffs – notably for agriculture, textiles and automobiles – were phased out. The highly organized opposition to NAFTA has focused on the fear that the removal of trade barriers will encourage U.S. companies to get carried away and settle in Mexico to use cheap labour. This concern increased in the early years of the 2000s, when the economy experienced a recession and the subsequent recovery turned out to be a “recovery in unemployment”. Opposition to NAFTA was also strong among environmental groups, who said that the anti-pollution elements in the treaty were woefully inadequate. This criticism has not wavered since the implementation of NAFTA. In fact, Mexico and Canada have been cited on several occasions for environmental infidelities. Analysts agree that NAFTA has opened up new opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises. Each year, Mexican consumers spend more on U.S. products than their counterparts in Japan and Europe, which means the stakes are high for entrepreneurs. (Most NAFTA studies focus on the impact of U.S.
affairs with Mexico. Trade with Canada has also been improved, but the passage of the trade agreement has not had such a significant impact on the already liberal trade practices that America and its northern neighbour have complied with.) “The USMCA will provide our workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses with a quality trade agreement that will result in freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in our region. It will strengthen the middle class and create good, well-paying jobs and new opportunities for the nearly half a billion people who call North America home. NAFTA has not eliminated regulatory requirements for companies wishing to act internationally, such as rules of origin and documentation obligations, that determine whether certain products can be traded under NAFTA. The free trade agreement also provides for administrative, civil and criminal sanctions for companies that violate the laws or customs procedures of the three countries. U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of Census, foreign trade statistics. “New data updates 2005.” Available at www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/. Appeal on April 17, 2006. The United States is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) contains rules for trade among the 154 members of the WTO.
The United States and other WTO members are currently participating in the WTO negotiations on development in Doha and a strong and open Doha agreement on both goods and services would go a long way in managing the global economic crisis and restoring the role of trade in promoting economic growth and development.