Hemisphere A-Go-Go

Toking on Free Trade, Rich Americans Party On

George Bush's state dinner for Mexican president Vicente Fox this fall promises to be quite the party. They'll be celebrating the new Free Trade Area of the Americas, a super-NAFTA forged last week in Quebec City. The agreement promises to set off the biggest fire sale in the hemisphere's history. We haven't seen a geopolitical shift this great since the Louisiana Purchase.

Under the Quebec agreement, which still must be ratified by the Senate, corporations based in the U.S. will storm south for bargainsÑphone companies, electric utilities, mining ventures, cattle ranches, assembly production plants. Feeding the frenzy is the prospect of pennies-a-day labor across the border and a chance to leave behind U.S. environmental controls.

This is Bush's answer to our so-called energy crisis, with oil and gas production in Mexico offering a serious alternative to our dependence on Middle East oil. The agreement brings closer the day when Mexico's gas will come north via a pipeline and its electrical production by wire. The pressure to drain these resources will grow because Bush is relaxing automobile emission standards and cutting back on other energy efficiency measures, all of which will increase—not decrease—the demand for energy in the U.S.

Trade policy is also key to our emerging free-market policy on agriculture. Instead of using American farm products for processed foods, agribusiness concerns can just import cheaply grown food from elsewhere in the hemisphere, leaving that symbol of America's past—the family farmer—in Nowheresville.

And what of the hemisphere's poorer states? The theory is that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank can help them hold their own in competition with their first world neighbors. But nobody really believes this, because developing nations are only getting poorer and more dependent on aid from neocolonial masters. Indeed, both liberals and conservatives in Congress deride these development policies as next to useless.


James Ridgeway's complete Mondo Washington column this week.

For a frontline report from Quebec City, see Lenora Tedoro's "Tearing Down the Wall."

 
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