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Mexico: Catastrophic outlook for NAFTA; protests being organized

Cattle Network | 10 January 2008

Mexico: Catastrophic Outlook For NAFTA; Protests Being Organized

Victor Quintana, State Legislator from Chihuahua, believes that an outlook of uncertainty and lack of security will affect Mexican agricultural workers and consumers after NAFTA’s agricultural chapter is fully implemented on January 1. Quintana, a former federal legislator has protested against free trade since 1991, before NAFTA’s implementation. He claims the GOM has "dismantled" the agricultural network and allowed large transnational companies to take over the Mexican rural sector. "The competition is not about Mexican agriculture against American agriculture, but about a Mexican worker against large companies like Cargill, Conagra or ADM." He also stated that even if prices paid by the consumer are reduced because of cheaper imports, other effects will be negative in the end: future food dependency from imports, destruction of the agricultural workforce, abandonment of rural communities and further illegal migration to the United States. Quintana will lead a protest at the Bridge of the Americas, the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border crossing point, on January 1, 2008. (Source: Excelsior, 12/29/2007)


According to a recent study from the Mexican Congress’ Public Finance Analysis Center, Mexican agricultural workers will face NAFTA’s full implementation at a disadvantage compared to their U.S. and Canadian counterparts, mainly because of the subsidy differential. The study explains that in 2006, U.S. producers received an average of US $150 per hectare in direct and indirect subsidies; Canada received US $52, while Mexico received US $45. "After 15 years of NAFTA, Mexico’s agricultural productivity hasn’t improved enough to compensate for this subsidy gap," stated the study. The study is part of a series of measures announced by the Mexican Congress to be used in further discussions with U.S. and Canadian legislators to promote a possible renegotiation of NAFTA’s agricultural chapter. (Source: Reforma, 12/30/2007)


Approximately 200 agricultural workers protested against NAFTA’s full implementation at the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border crossing. The protestors claim that full liberalization of trade for sensitive commodities, like corn and beans, will seriously aggravate Mexico’s food sovereignty and put many agricultural workers out of business. After closing two of the four south-bound lanes at the Bridge of the Americas/Cordova crossing point, agricultural organizations signed the "Chamizal Plan" that outlines the request of a new strategy to preserve food sovereignty and defend Mexico’s natural resources. No related incidents were reported, and the demonstrators left 36 hours later. (Source: Noticieros Televisa, 1/01/2008)


According to the National Union of Tortilla Millers and Processors, tortilla prices will increase from 20 to 30 percent because of tariff-free corn that will come from the United States. The average price of a kilogram of tortillas is 8.50 pesos (US $0.77), but it could go to 9.00 pesos (US $0.81), according to Lorenzo Mejia, President of the Union. Mejia also stated that tortilla producers won’t have resources to compete with producers from the United States and Canada because they can sell the corn cheaper and that will affect domestic producers. (Source: El Universal, 1/02/2008)


Several international trade specialists agree that NAFTA has been positive for Mexico, and attempting to renegotiate it would be costly for the Mexican economy. According to Luis de la Calle, Mexico had a trade deficit of US $3 billion when NAFTA was negotiated in the early 90’s; today, Mexico has a US $64 billion trade surplus. "If we want to renegotiate, the U.S. will also want to review their affected industries, which would include the ones in which we’ve succeeded," said de la Calle. Sergio Gomez, a consultant of the Inteligencia Comercial, points out that jobs related to free trade are paid 50 percent more than the others, and explains that NAFTA is not to be blamed for the alleged two million agricultural jobs lost during the past 15 years. (Source: El Universal, 1/02/2008)


A group of Mexican lawyers is currently working with agricultural workers to promote a series of judicial interdictions against the full implementation of NAFTA. According to Roman Diaz, one of the legal advisors, NAFTA’s agricultural chapter contravenes Articles 1, 3, 14, 16, 25 and 133 of the Mexican Constitution. So agricultural workers from several states (at least eight, according to Diaz) could apply for judicial interdiction, but it is not clear how the interdictions would work. However, the stalling process could negatively affect the commercialization of the commodities involved. Diaz explained they will distribute the legal documentation required to promote this measure to producers around the country. (Source: La Jornada, 1/02/2008)


The President of the Lower House, Ruth Zavaleta, asked the Senate to demand that the Executive Branch renegotiate the agricultural chapter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). "We can’t only make statements, but together with the Senate we should demand the Federal Executive Branch to make revisions that examine modifying the agreement in order to protect agriculture," said Zavaleta. She also stated that she will look for the Senate President, Santiago Creel of the PAN party, to articulate the possibilities for creating a common front in Congress. Zavaleta, who is also the President of the Permanent Commission at the Lower House, stated the GOM should look to avoid adverse problems against producers. "The Federal Executive branch should modify the agreement, which was written in an unfair way for Mexican farmers," Zavaleta pointed out. (Source: Reforma, 01/04/2008)


At least 4,000 state and municipal leaders of the National Farmers Confederation (CNC) will meet on Friday and Saturday in Veracruz to determine the actions they will take for the full implementation of NAFTA’s agricultural chapter. CNC National Consultant, Juan Hernandez-Moreno, informed that they will look for the GOM to revise its agricultural chapter. "There will be some very interesting thematic round tables, particularly the trade opening, the financing outlines and the GOM supports; all the topics that impact the agriculture sector," said Hernandez-Moreno. "We are proposing that the four basic products (corn, dry beans, sugar and powder milk) have the supports to be competitive and are subsidized," added Hernandez-Moreno. The rural leader stated that the only way that the Mexican growers could be competitive with their counterparts of the United States and Canada is for the GOM to give official supports to these products. If not, Hernandez-Moreno believes the market will be saturated with the cheapest products. According to Hernandez-Moreno, Agricultural Secretary, Alberto Cardenas-Jimenez, was invited to the CNC meeting. (Source: Reforma, 01/03/2008)


On January 1, Mexican farmers settled at the international border point of Cordova-America (Ciudad Juarez) to protest the full implementation of NAFTA’s agricultural chapter. Agricultural growers were accompanied by the local lawmaker, Victor Quintana, who is also leader of the organization "Pro-farmer Movement" in Chihuahua. The lawmaker stated they will maintain their partial blockade in order to impede imports of U.S. and Canadian grains at the border points. In Tijuana, Baja California, actress Jesusa Rodriguez and around 25 young people from Oaxaca, placed blankets over spots at the border mesh. In Cuernavaca, Morelos, members of the National Campaign in Defense of the Alimentary Sovereignty, announced their plan of "El Chamizal." In this document, they demanded the renegotiation of NAFTA’s agricultural chapter. In Mexico City, members of the group "Peaceful Civil Resistance" took corn to the official presidential residence (Los Pinos) and wrote the sentence, "No to the Free Trade Agreement." The protest was headed by PRD spokesman, Gerardo Fernandez-Noroña. "It is evident that many growers will have serious difficulties competing with justness in the national market," stated the editorial. (Source: Reforma, 01/02/2008)

 source: Cattle Network