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Mexico-United States Migration in the NAFTA Era - revista de ...

Mexico-United States Migration in the NAFTA Era - revista de ...

Mexico-United States Migration in the NAFTA Era - revista de

COMERCIO EXTERIOR, VOL. 53, NO. 12, DECEMBER 2003Mexico-United States Migration in the NAFTA EraGERMÁN A. ZÁRATE-HOYOS AND DEBORAH SPENCER ∗The North American Free Trade agreement, which became law on January 1,1994, was motivated by a variety of economic, political and social concerns.One dominant concern had to do with reducing international migration flowsto the US. Markusen and Zahniser (1997) mention among the US motivesthe desire to improve Mexican wages and thereby reduce migration. Othermotives had to do with the need by US firms to have a low-wage partner forroutine, less-skilled operations to successfully compete with Japan and tolock-in the significant moves by Mexico towards economic liberalization ineconomic and political terms. On the Mexican side, there was also a desireto lock-in economic reforms and to establish a form of insurance againstdomestic slowdown. In addition, there was an explicit intent to reducemigration by exporting goods and not people. The newly launchedPartnership for Prosperity initiative between President Fox and PresidentBush, intended to create jobs in depressed areas of Mexico and to help stemmigration to the US, 1 is a recent example of how migration concerns stilldominate the political agenda of U.S.-Mexican relations.Despite their importance, however, migrant workers apparently fall beyondthe alleged open-trade spirit of NAFTA evident in the fact that Nafta barelyaddress the migration issue. One of its two side agreements, the NorthAmerican Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), in addition to calls forbetter labor statistics, provides a mechanism to address labor law violationsbut they only deal with minimum wages, child labor and workplace safetyissues as defined by each country (harmonization of labor laws was avoided).Despite these mechanisms, the issues that have dominated the complaintprocess: the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, and theright to strike have been limited to low level “review and consultation” tasksamong member countries. 2 Annex 1 of the NAALC does list “protection ofmigrant workers” as one of eleven principles each Nafta member agreed topromote individually but this is not a goal subject to critical evaluation.There are provisions in the Nafta accord for temporary entry for some∗ Department of Economics, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, and Department of Economics,SUNY and .1 “Meeting seeks to repair US-Mexico ties”, The New York Times, June 14, 2003.2 McKinney (2000).1

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