TRADE: The Nafta Paradox


Twenty years after Nafta, both Mexico and the U.S. have seen rising productivity combined with falling real wages, argues CLAS Chair, Harley Shaiken.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) “ignited an explosion in cross-border economic activity,” wrote former U.S. Trade Representative Carla A. Hills in the January 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the agreement. Nafta was truly historic. It was the first regional trade agreement to link economies at such sharply different levels of development as Mexico on the one hand and the United States and Canada on the other. The agreement provoked a highly contentious public debate in the United States — the sharpest trade debate since World War II — centered around globalization in general and the economic relationship between the United States and Mexico in particular. The debate went far beyond trade experts and high-powered lobbyists in Washington and spilled over onto Main Street in union halls, environmental groups, community meetings, and small business associations.

Publication date: 
January 14, 2014
Publication type: 
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies Article