In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, came into effect, opening up the Mexican economy to the imperialist bourgeoisie of the United States and Canada, as well as compradors in Mexico. This trade deal empowered private corporations in Mexico, allowing them to privatize land as they pleased and destroy the environment, while Mexican workers suffered in the maquiladoras, or sweatshops. U.S. corporations, especially those in the auto industry, moved their jobs to Mexico because there they can get away with paying low wages, providing poor working conditions and opposing worker organization.
The deal also forced many Mexican farm workers out of their jobs, leading to massive unemployment. This is one reason many people blame NAFTA for increased emigration from Mexico to the United States — thousands of Mexicans lost their jobs and looked for better lives in the United States. In response to the imperialist trade agreement, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (known as the EZLN or Zapatistas) rose up to protect Indigenous lands in the face of an imperialist takeover. They struggled, and continue to struggle, against corporate privatization and environmental destruction of their lands.
Most recently, the U.S., Canada and Mexico (under former President Enrique Peña Nieto) agreed to sign what many are calling “NAFTA 2.0” or the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, USMCA. Just like Western economists claimed NAFTA would be beneficial to the development of Mexico, many are claiming that the USMCA will be beneficial for the people of Mexico. But a quick analysis at some of the key points of this deal demonstrates otherwise. The USMCA demands that a larger percentage of automobiles be manufactured in North America. Since the cheapest labor is available in Mexico, more people will be channeled into the maquiladoras where pay is low and conditions are poor. In writing, the USMCA claims that workers will receive at least $16/hour, that it will provide labor protections for migrant workers and will protect women from workplace discrimination.
Since some of these protections exist and are enforced in the U.S. and Canada already, the Mexican government remains the main target for these stipulations. This may sound like a victory for the workers, but policymakers are quick to admit that enforcing the new protections will be difficult “because it’s not quite clear how countries are going to keep track of how much companies in Mexico are paying their workers, or how Mexican companies will determine that everyone is making $16 an hour.”
The lack of accountability of corporations was only mentioned in regards to Mexico, not the U.S. and Canada. Of course, this is because First World workers would never put up with less than $2/hour wages. Instead, this burden is outsourced to our sisters and brothers in Mexico who struggle to survive while their labor enrichens the imperialist U.S. and Canada.
The signing of this deal should also raise awareness given the large community of Central American migrants stranded in Mexico. The deal directly addresses the migrant caravan by adding a clause in which the Mexican government promises to extend labor protections to migrants. This clause is merely an attempt for the U.S. to achieve two policy goals with one deal. In the eyes of the imperialists, the large number of people at the border of the U.S. and Mexico represent a large pool of unemployed labor, or what Karl Marx would call a reserve army of labor.
The USMCA will offer opportunities to migrants in Mexico in order to stop them from getting to the United States. This is necessary for the capitalist-imperialist system, as having a large reserve army of labor makes it more difficult for workers to unionize and fight for their rights. In addition, keeping migrants in the Global South maintains the supply of cheap labor necessary for corporations to make super profits when outsourcing to foreign factories where labor is cheap and conditions are poor, such as in the maquiladoras.
The recent signing of the new USMCA deal will not go into effect until 2020, but we should still resist this deal since it is merely an extension of the NAFTA agreement with some sugar coating on top. The trade agreement serves the interests of the U.S. and Canadian imperialists as well as the oligarchs and capitalists in Mexico. While U.S. media outlets focus on the impact it will have on U.S. workers, we have to look at how the deal impacts the exploited masses in Mexico and Central American migrants, especially during this time of crisis.
There are many vulnerable people within Mexico and the capitalist-imperialists see this as an opportunity to profit off of the suffering and misery of our compañerxs. We must resist the signing of this new treaty and all trade negotiations between the imperialist countries and the exploited in which the comprador governments sell out their people for the profit of Western capitalists.