NAFTA Highway Exchange

There’s an exchange about my NAFTA highway article in the lastest issue of the Nation, and since it’s behind the subscriber wall, I thought I’d go ahead and steal my own intellectual property and put it up here:

Christopher Hayes is right: There’s no proposed NAFTA Superhighway—not that anyone can prove [Aug. 27/Sept. 3]. But he’s missed all the signs that our transportation, regulatory and trading systems are undergoing a major remake.

Monthly Review, the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade and the Council of Canadians (CoC) are a few nonparanoids who would take issue with Hayes. Hayes quotes a government official who assures us that the Security and Prosperity Partnership is merely a "mundane formal bureaucratic dialogue." Then why did the Canadian Labour Congress, many other unions and the CoC recently sponsor National Days of Action against the SPP? The SPP is about much more than harmonizing baby-food-jar sizes, as Hayes states. It will apply the US version of homeland security to Canada and Mexico, eliminate each nation's independent regulatory standards, integrate our resources--with vast implications for Canada's water and oil shale and Mexico's public petroleum and energy industries. It has been negotiated completely behind closed doors by our governments and corporations. Instead of repeating government assurances, The Nation should be exposing this betrayal of democracy.

This reshaping of trade and transportation includes significant labor issues, like our government’s plans to replace US drivers with cheaper Mexican drivers who work for multinational trucking companies, which have been buying up Mexican truck lines. Also, rail workers are alarmed at the takeover of the privatized Mexican rail system by US rail companies like Kansas City Southern Railway, now dubbed the NAFTA Railroad. Then there is the massive, soon-to-be-built Punta Colonet rail and deep-water port project in Baja California, which will funnel containers east across fragile deserts to the Midwest. Its workers will presumably be without any real union representation, just like at the port at Lazaro Cardenas.

Those of us who live along the NAFTA I-35 corridor who are looking south are deeply concerned about where the Trans Texas Corridor is going and if it really will come to a screeching halt at the Oklahoma line. We worry about the environmental consequences of a trade model that hauls increasing quantities of manufactured and agricultural goods and resources across thousands of miles of ocean, rail and road using fossil fuels and spewing pollution. We are alarmed at the prospect of privatized roads built by militantly antiunion outfits like Zachry while the public roads deteriorate. Like so many Americans, Canadians and Mexicans, we worry about how many more jobs will be offshored so the corridor boosters can soak up government subsidies and Wal-Mart can get its goods on time.

The Cross Border Network


Washington, DC

I plead guilty to the charge that my glancing coverage of the Security and Prosperity Partnership was overly credulous. In subsequent correspondence primarily with Canadian progressives, I’ve become convinced that the SPP is far more ambitious and more nefarious than its architects claim. It seems its two primary objectives are deregulation by stealth and the imposition of US-style “war on terror” security measures on Canada and Mexico. As a general matter, I share nearly all of Judy Ancel’s concerns about corporate globalization and the neoliberal agenda for the United States and its immediate neighbors. The point of the piece wasn’t to imply that anyone who shares those concerns is paranoid; rather, I was attempting to show that when the mainstream political and media establishment ignore ordinary citizens’ very real and legitimate concerns about the direction of transnational capitalism, their anxieties are easily directed away from the underlying causes and toward mythical threats.


Chris Hayes is the host of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

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