Yesterday, U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor and
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy appeared before the Senate
Agriculture Committee at a hearing on the NAFTA. In his remarks,
Ambassador Kantor discussed Mexico's many agricultural non-tariff
barriers stating: "In our bilateral relationship, the maintenance of
these non-tariff barriers helps Mexico much more than it helps us.
Conversely, the elimination of these barriers will be more beneficial to
the United States than to Mexico." Kantor testified that the passage
of NAFTA will sweep away these and other barriers, greatly increasing
U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico.
Secretary Espy picked up on Kantor's theme of increased
exports, and testified that since 1986 when Mexican President Salinas
first came into office and began reforms, "we had export sales there of
about $1 billion, and just by [Salinas'] unilateral actions, we've seen
almost a quadrupling in the U.S. presence in their agricultural market
[to $4 billion annually]." With NAFTA and the removal of the remaining
Mexican barriers to U.S. agricultural products, Espy testified "for the
first time, we will be dealing on a level and on a fair playing field"
with a market of 90 million Mexican consumers.
Labor Secretary Robert Reich also testified before the Senate
Finance Committee yesterday regarding NAFTA labor issues. Addressing
the concern that low Mexican wages would draw U.S. manufacturing jobs
south, Reich argued that many factors other than wages impact a
company's investment decisions, concluding "[i]f low wages were the key
to where manufacturers located, manufacturers would be locating in
Bangladesh and Haiti. Those would become the manufacturing capitals of
Mitchell, Bradley, Baucus Reaffirm Support of NAFTA
In a Senate press conference yesterday afternoon, Senate
Majority Leader George Mitchell joined Senators Bill Bradley (D-NJ) and
Max Baucus (D-MT) in reaffirming their support for NAFTA and responded
to Rep. Richard Gephardt's (D-MO) announced opposition. Mitchell
expressed his "belief that the NAFTA will be good for Maine, good for
the country and will be approved by the Congress." Sen. Max Baucus,
Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the
Senate Finance Trade Subcommittee, said "I have the utmost respect and
admiration for Dick. ...But he is simply wrong on this issue." Baucus
continued, "I have the utmost confidence that, after the smoke clears,
after the dust settles, and the American people and the Congress know
more about the facts and less about the rhetoric, that NAFTA will pass.
It will pass this, and it will pass both bodies."