Globalization and Immigration

Driving down wages by flooding the labor market…

by Brenda Walker


• General Motors has built at least 50 factories in Mexico since 1978.

• Mexico ranks #4 in number of billionaires per country (1998), according to Forbes.

• In El Paso alone, more than 10,000 jobs have been lost to NAFTA.

• NAFTA-caused contamination of the Rio Grande has caused increased hepatitis and birth defects.

Source: NAFTA Index, from Public Citizen

Globalization graphic

It wasn't that long ago when trade issues put most citizens to sleep. Not any more. The World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in early December 1999 brought tens of thousands to protest the WTO's negative effect on the environment, labor rights, national sovereignty and food safety. And the protesters are in tune with citizen concerns: the Pew Center recently found 52 percent of those polled think globalized trade harms America. Sixty-six percent of Americans polled in 1997 by Peter Hart Associates did not want NAFTA extended to other countries. These are a remarkably high numbers, considering the constant media cheerleading for “free” trade.

As part of anti-WTO activities, scientists and citizens warned of the threat to democratic government. “The WTO is the greatest surrender of our national, state and local sovereignty and subordinates our health, safety and environmental standards to the imperatives of international trade,” according to consumer activist Ralph Nader.

Reassuring words from Clinton and other servants of global capital now fall on deaf ears after the similar promises about the North American Free Trade Agreement proved to be calculated lies. That trade deal, passed by Congress in 1993, was supposed to clean up pollution on the border, increase American exports and decrease immigration. Instead, all of these problems have increased. The Rio Grande is a worse toxic sewer than before. The 2003 trade deficit with Mexico was $40.6 billion; America had a slight trade surplus with Mexico before NAFTA. A currency devaluation in Mexico just months after NAFTA's enactment impoverished millions of Mexicans and increased immigration. Critics charged that then-President Salinas had postponed the devaluation in order to make his country's economy appear healthier than it actually was. Accused of corruption and fearful for his life, Salinas now lives in Ireland.

Maquiladoros, the multinational factories located in Mexico along the Rio Grande to maximize accessibility to American markets, grew rapidly since NAFTA was enacted. But Mexico has lost out to China in recent years, with 300,000 maquila jobs shipped overseas between 2000 and 2003. Mexico remains plagued with endemic corruption, paralyzing bureaucracy, inadequate transportation infrasturcture, poor power supplies and low levels of education in its workers. Still, the remaining maquiladoras have increased immigration by drawing job-hungry Mexicans close to the border, who then enter the U.S. illegally because wages are so much higher a few miles away.

Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, criticized NAFTA regarding the border while interviewed on a San Francisco radio show (4/6/99, KQED-FM, Forum). While some parts of the treaty could have been made to work, she said, the idea that NAFTA would reduce illegal immigration was a public relations fantasy from the start. Furthermore, the pollution in the area around the border has not been cleaned up (another failed promise) and is more environmentally damaged than ever because of the maquilladoros.

NAFTA has been a lose-lose situation for workers in both the U.S. and Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of high-paying manufacturing jobs have moved from the U.S. to Mexico, where they have become low-paying manufacturing jobs, even by Mexican standards. As Ralph Nader has said, “Globalized trade is a race to the bottom.” Such a result should not be surprising, however; globalized economic rules are completely skewed to benefit capital and investors. Mere citizens get zero.


A Forgotten Threat: Free Trade in Population
by Daniel Akst in the New York Times

NAFTA's Powerful Little Secret
The New York Times is surprised that NAFTA is undemocratic, secretive and destructive toward the health and safety regulatory functions of government. However, these were exactly the warnings from anti-globalists before the trade agreement was voted in by the Congress.

California's Rising Income Inequality: Causes and Concerns
Good facts, incomplete analysis from the Public Policy Institute of California

The Voice of Economic Nationalism
A review of Pat Buchanan's book “The Great Betrayal” from The Atlantic

The New Jungle
U.S. News & World Report's excellent 1996 series on illegal immigrants recruited to do meatpacking work in America

Patriotism in the Boardroom
See the amount of loyalty to the United States among the captains of industry and business (Hint: not much)

NAFTA Report Card at Five Years
Consistent F's, from the environment to worker rights and food safety. From Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

Some relevant facts and statistics

Harmonization Alert
Public Citizen's updates of globalization issues, including helpful contact information of relevant government agencies. Detailed information on NAFTA, WTO, etc.

Smuggled Meat Blamed for Epidemic
The terrible scourge of hoof and mouth disease in Britain of 2001 was evidently caused by infected meat from China.

Foreign species seize share of U.S. Habitat
Destructive plants and animals are another harmful byproduct of the globalized economy. Cornell University biologist David Pimentel estimates the annual cost at $137 billion.

NAFTA May Force Water, Air Perils on California
Trade agreement trumps state's safety regulatory powers.

Sovereign Corporations
The ever-thoughtful William Greider details how an obscure section of NAFTA endangers national soveignty.

Income Gap Widens
Two incomes now do not earn what one income did in the 1960s and 1970s.

Robert Kaplan
An article about the work of an author who has written about devolutionary pressures at home and around the world.

Hi, I'm in Bangalore (but I Dare Not Tell)
Companies train Indians to masquerade as Americans in order for them to seem more comfortable to U.S. customers. “Hi, my name is Susan Sanders, and I'm from Chicago,” said C. R. Suman, 22, who is in fact a native of Bangalore and fields calls from customers of a telecommunications company in the United States. (Isn't this fraud?)

Trading Democracy
Bill Moyers interviews Bill Greider and others on the subject of NAFTA's Chapter 11, which permits a foreign company to sue the U.S. government for damages for any perceived barrier to trade, including environmental regulations or "Buy American" policies. Instead of democracy, unelected NAFTA tribunals will decide who gets billions of taxpayer dollars. It's rule by the corporations, with no bothersome citizens involved.

Carl Pope condemns globalized trade
The CEO of the Sierra Club notes how trade agreements have been harmful to the environment, since the lowest standards prevail.