NAFTA's Mixed Record

The View From Mexico

Workers on the assembly line at the General Motors plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, November 2008. Henry Romero / Courtesy Reuters

When the North American Free Trade Agreement was proposed, it set off a vigorous debate across the continent about its benefits and drawbacks. Today, 20 years after it came into effect, perhaps the only thing everyone can agree on is that all sides greatly exaggerated: NAFTA brought neither the huge gains its proponents promised nor the dramatic losses its adversaries warned of. Everything else is debatable. Mexico, in particular, is a very different place today -- a multiparty democracy with a broad middle class and a competitive export economy -- and its people are far better off than ever before, but finding the source of the vast changes that have swept the country is a challenging task. It would be overly simplistic to credit NAFTA for Mexico’s many transformations, just as it would be to blame NAFTA for Mexico’s many failings.

The truth lies somewhere in between. Viewed exclusively

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