U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- After two years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), environmental problems along the U.S.-Mexico border have worsened considerably, charges a new report by an anti-NAFTA consumer and environmental group. Supporters of the trade pact, on the other hand, claim that it's unfair and far too early to blame ongoing border pollution problems on NAFTA.
"NAFTA has intensified severe problems of water and air pollution (and) hazardous-waste dumping, and increased the incidence rates of certain diseases and birth defects in the border region," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a group founded in 1971 by consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Public Citizen, which has opposed NAFTA since the trade pact was just a gleam in the eye of President Clinton, blames the pollution along the border on U.S.-owned manufacturing plants known as maquiladoras. In promoting NAFTA, Clinton Administration officials promised to reduce the number of maquiladoras and their toxic emissions, the group contends. Citing Mexican data, the group's report claims that the maquila workforce has increased 20 percent since NAFTA began.
Certain other environmental groups that have gone on record in favor of NAFTA, however, have taken issue to Public Citizen's claims. "It's not anything to do with NAFTA," said Peter Emerson, senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund. Instead, said Emerson, continued pollution along the border is primarily due to the devaluation of the peso. NAFTA, which took effect in January 1994, aims to eliminate all tariffs on trade between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada within 15 years.
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