The North American Free Trade Agreement
NATIONAL WAR COLL WASHINGTON DC
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Trade negotiators from the United States, Mexico, and Canada initialed the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA on October 7, 1992. This event marked more than two years of intense negotiations which culminated in a 2000-page plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate most of the remaining trade and investment barriers between the three nations. Three days earlier, then-candidate Bill Clinton had finally endorsed the pact, much to the chagrin of many Democrats with important labor and environmental constituencies. While Clintons embrace of NAFTA included a promise to protect US workers rights, jobs and the environment, this promise has not allayed the fears of congressional Democrats who are feeling strong pressures to force the new President to renegotiate the entire agreement. Clintons handling of the NAFTA issue will provide an important early test of his ability to shift from campaign rhetoric to policy formulation. At the heart of the matter is the fundamental debate between protectionism and free trade. While Clinton the campaigner bemoaned the loss of US manufacturing jobs to Mexico, as President he is forced to consider the long term national security implications of the United States reneging on promises made to two of its three largest trading partners. And though Clinton most certainly does not want to ruffle the feathers of congressional Democrats so important to his ultimate success, he will be equally loathe to break another campaign pledge by reversing his decision not to renegotiate NAFTA. In this regard, NAFTA may prove to be the most explosive and significant economic issue Clinton will face in his first few months in office.
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