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NAFTA at Five: School of Real-Life Results - Report Card


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January 1, 1999 is the fifth anniversary of the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement: NAFTA now has an extensive real life record. Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch conducted a detailed review of that track record, assessing the results of NAFTA in several crucial areas. This Report Card ­ reflecting the results of our review ­ grades NAFTA on the major issues.

NAFTA's proponents promised the pact would create new benefits and gains in each of these areas. The promised benefits ­ 200,000 new U.S. jobs from NAFTA per year, higher wages in Mexico and a growing U.S. trade surplus with Mexico, environmental clean-up and improved health along the border ­ have to a one failed to materialize.

However, as this report illustrates, after five years, NAFTA fails to pass the most conservative test of all: a simple do-no-harm test. Under NAFTA, conditions not only have not improved, they have deteriorated in many areas. As a result, on each of the issues examined, the only fair grade for NAFTA is a failing one ­ hard data and real-life examples tell the story.

The American Public Also Grades NAFTA a Failure

Recent opinion polls show that the majority of Americans are aware of NAFTA's poor performance. Asked for their views, everyday citizens give NAFTA "F's" for benefitting the public interest and "A's" for boosting big corporations.

  • 66% of Americans believe that free trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries cost the U.S. jobs
  • 66% of Americans believe that NAFTA has helped large corporations
  • 73% of Americans believe that NAFTA has not helped small business in the U.S.
  • 58% of Americans agree that foreign trade has been bad for the U.S. economy because cheap imports have cost wages and jobs here
  • 81% of Americans say that Congress should not accept trade agreements that give other countries the power to overturn U.S. laws on consumer safety, labor or the environment
  • For the first time ever, Americans say the U.S. trade deficit is the most important economic issue facing the country, above taxes, the federal budget deficit, and inflation. In 1993, only 7% of Americans thought the trade deficit was the most important economic issue facing the country, trailing unemployment, the federal deficit and taxes.