A deal between the US and Mexico on a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may be announced any day now, marking the first revision of the deal since its signing.
A product of the neoliberal “Washington Consensus,” the pact between the US, Canada and Mexico went into effect in 1994 and became a model for many trade agreements that followed. NAFTA has long been in the crosshairs of unions, progressive campaigners, leftists, environmental groups and consumer advocates for its pro-corporate, anti-regulatory policies and outsourcing incentives.
Indeed, NAFTA was made systematically more damaging by every administration since its signing.
But before the ink was dry, on January 1, 1994, the Zapatista guerrilla movement rose in southern Mexico and signaled the start of an anti-NAFTA battle that shook the world. The fight grew into a global justice movement that won the 1999 “Battle in Seattle” against the World Trade Organization (WTO) and prevented an attempted NAFTA expansion through the Free Trade Areas of the Americas.
This global, internationalist “movement of movements” has won many battles since, most recently with last year’s defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). While Donald Trump formally buried the TPP, the reality is that President Obama, a united corporate lobby and GOP congressional leadership could not get the deal approved the prior year.
The agreement had been made politically impossible by some of the same folks that shut down the WTO in the streets of Seattle.
This is all well and good, and even a cause for inspiration in these bleak times. But it’s necessary to point out the elephant in the room: Opposition to free trade deals like the TPP and NAFTA also helped Donald Trump swing traditionally Democratic states and pave a path to the White House.
The NAFTA Renegotiations
When the 2008 financial crisis hit, it slammed communities that had already been decimated by the waves of outsourcing and wage stagnation that…