The Mexico option

April 22, 1991

Mexico is hoping Congress will put the proposed U.S.-Mexican free trade agreement on the fast track for negotiation, an approach that will speed up the negotiations and limit legislative changes to any agreed-to document. The accord would follow the recent U.S.-Canadian agreement, the verdict on which is not yet in. But the Mexicans have seen enough to know they like the idea and want to create a broader version covering all three North American countries.

Mexico has been undergoing broad political and economic changes in the last few years and hopes an accord will bring more investment money, thereby creating jobs and opportunities Mexicans can stay home instead of migrate northward (legally or illegally) and help in its drive to become a developed nation.

U.S. opponents fear that laxer Mexican environmental standards will attract U.S. businesses trying to cut costs, that American jobs will be lost and that third nations will slip in the back door to the American market by opening operations in Mexico. The Mexicans have answers to all these arguments: Mexico is tightening its environmental rules and no U.S. company will be welcomed if it is coming to escape U.S. pollution rules; exports and new markets create jobs, and jobs that are being lost will be lost anyway, if not to Mexico then to other cheaper-labor countries, and no third nations will be allowed to take advantage of the pact.

Exact details of the treaty are, of course, still to be worked out. But there is enough mutual interest in the idea -- money for Mexico, jobs for the U.S. -- for Congress to approve the start of fast-track negotiations and see where they lead.

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