I have told the following anecdote several times, not because I was an eyewitness at that press conference, but because it shows the underlying motive and purpose of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.)
Let me start by saying that among the many lies — post-truths, they call them nowadays — Donald Trump invented lies to attack Hillary Clinton during the electoral campaign. He said that NAFTA was a brainchild of her husband Bill Clinton. I still don’t grasp why Hillary did not deny this “accusation” if you can call it such. NAFTA was the brainchild of former Republican President George Bush and approved two weeks after Clinton was elected in Nov. 1993.
Bill Clinton ran on an anti-NAFTA platform backed by protectionist labor unions. But he soon had to swallow the bitter pill that NAFTA was a negotiated mandate and that its motive was to help push Mexico out of the closed-up and protectionist economy it had lived under for over six decades. It was Mexico’s grand entry into the global economy the United States of America has forever successfully promoted.
Previous to that, Mexico had survived on U.S. handouts and was indeed a poor nation. The purpose of NAFTA was to help Mexico develop into an industrial society in order to fully integrate it to the United States and Canada, given the natural geographical nature Mexico has as part of North America.
Well, here’s the anecdote. On January 7, 1994, president-elect Clinton met in Austin, Texas with one of NAFTA’s most vigorous promoters, then President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
According through traditional bilateral protocol, they were to communicate through interpreters, which they did, at least to begin with.
Salinas told Clinton, in Spanish, that “queremos intercambio comercial, no ayuda” and the interpreter correctly translated it into “we want commercial exchange, not help.”
At that moment, Salinas, a Harvard educated economist, barged in and corrected himself and the interpreter and said in most fluent English.
“That’s not what I mean to say,” he told Clinton looking at him, “what I want to say sir is we want trade, not aid,” which clued Clinton in — who had had nothing to do with the NAFTA negotiations — as to the real purpose of pulling Mexico out of the financial hole and the nation’s steepest economic crisis that hit it during the 1980s.
Bill Clinton cracked a surprise smile and knew at that moment that NAFTA was a baby on his lap and like it or not, he had to cuddle it, which he did for the most part. But that was 23 years ago and a lot of water has gone through NAFTA and the Rio Grande ever since irrigating both nations.
Back to the future. One of the arguments Donald the Menace held to earn the vote of that electoral minority Hillary called a “basket of deplorables,” is precisely the fact that on the whole, Mexico has had more benefits than the United States, because NAFTA’s negotiation was “disastrous” and yields a $60 billion trade deficit to the United States. (He’s hiked the amount to a post-truth $70 billion trade deficit which is to blame for all the economic woes of his electorate. Wow.)
Trump is right in saying that Mexico has reaped benefits from NAFTA. That’s what the agreement was all about from the start and the purpose George Bush had, followed up by Clinton, Bush 2 and Obama, was to create jobs in Mexico and prevent people from moving north undocumented.
And with problems, Mexico is almost there as migration north has decreased substantially as opportunities arise in Mexico and the US benefits from trade. Mexico would not be the USA’s third trading partner, after Canada and China, if it didn’t have jobs, money and economic stability.
The first goal of NAFTA is almost there but there are still purposes to achieve. At present Trump is setting goals he himself has no idea what they are as the fact that manufacturing jobs were lost to Mexicans in the USA is just another Trumpian post-truth.
He forgets the USA has leapfrogged the world in technological advances and robotics which has made US entrepreneurs lean and means to compete and mass produce at lower prices.
The time for renegotiation has come not because Mexico is “taking advantage” of poor lame USA, but because it’s been 23 years of solid growth in trade which has made North America an economic haven.
That’s a purpose that’s been achieved and Mexico’s policy since NAFTA was born has been kept as Mexico does not want nor need aid, but an ever increasing amount of trade not a business disrupting neighboring government.