Local activists discuss effects of NAFTA

Elenie Gonzalez, Contributor

Local organization leaders from around the community gathered for a town hall meeting to discuss the state of El Paso and Juarez after 23 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at Café Mayapan on Thursday.

The El Paso Equal Voice Network hosted the meeting, which included a panel of organization leaders, human rights activists, health workers, border experts, environmentalists and union leaders.

Exploitation of Mexican migrant workers and wages were just some of the issues that were addressed.

As discussions about the renegotiation of NAFTA took place in Washington D.C., similar conversations were had locally as the panelists spoke about the negative effects of the agreement in its current state.

Political science professor Kathleen Staudt spoke about the U.S. Trade Representative and how talks about renegotiation of NAFTA surfaced. She mentioned that a majority of those testifying are business lobbyists.

“Few people in the United States speak about the extremely low wages of Mexican workers, though the 10-to-1 illegal minimum wages will obviously incentivize more US corporations in the low-wage Mexican economy,” Staudt said.

Staudt also mentioned the lack of shared prosperity in the borderland.

“Inequality between the US and Mexico is something that has remained constant, and after NAFTA inequality increased,” Staudt said.

A solution to the issues addressed was offered by moderator Diana Washington-Valdez, who claims that the goal of the community should be to continue to talk about NAFTA and hold representatives accountable.

“It is important to contact your particular representatives in congress who will be your best lobbyists, but you have to lobby them,” Washington-Valdez said. “These issues were not covered at the other conference, I’m not surprised.”

More town hall meetings are set to take place around the state in the coming weeks.