North American Free Trade Agreement
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The North American Free Trade Agreement, usually referred to as NAFTA, was a free signed agreement into law by President Bill Clinton and was in effect from 1994 to 2020. It provided for a less-encumbered flow of goods and capital between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Around the time the agreement was approved the U.S. and Canada had already gradually reduced their cross-border tariffs to zero by the time it was passed, partially due to the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).
During its existence, staunch opponents of NAFTA asserted that the only thing that the agreement provided for was improved exploitation by capital in the cheap labor markets. However, they generally used the term "exploitation" in a vague and ill-defined way, roughly equivalent to any type of employer-employee relationship in which the employee is paid a low salary by Western standards. On the other hand,the standard view among economists is that those investments did create somewhat better working opportunities, at higher salaries, than the alternative employment opportunities for Mexicans, as well as welfare-enhancing effects through the availability of goods and other exchange-rate related effects to the whole economy.
Opponents also asserted that NAFTA was the cause of the implosion of small farming in all three countries and the enhancement of big agribusiness.
Ross Perot famously predicted in the 1992 U.S. Presidential Election that the result of implementation of NAFTA would be a "sucking sound" of jobs migrating to Mexico, creating unemployment problems in the U.S., especially in the manufacturing labor market. However, most economists (including Paul Krugman) supported NAFTA and predicted that no such thing would happen. They pointed out instead that both proponents and opponents of the treaty were largely exaggerating its pros and cons. In the end, after 1994, the U.S. experienced a long period of low unemployment, until around 2008 when the recession (due to a different kind of deregulation) began. To some extent, those economists could be challenged on the grounds that real wages for the vast majority of workers in the United States began declining in the United States with the early 2001 recession (only a few years after NAFTA took effect) and have continued to decline ever since. In addition, the recovery from that recession was the first jobless recovery in U.S. history, further bolstering that potential challenge.
In 2020 NAFTA was replaced by the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) which was vary similar to NAFTA, only containing slight changes to the original NAFTA.
NAFTA is an acronym that means: "North American Cheap Labor Agreement"
The sad commentary is that now the dollars are freer to cross the borders than the people. Granted, this is partly due to the post-9/11 decision to require passports for travel between the three nations. The European Union, meanwhile, is adamant on the free movement of goods, capital and labor being an unbreakable unit, as Britain has to learn the hard way during Brexit negotiations. Those socialist Europeans, giving the same rights to people as to money. Tsk.
In the years following its implementation NAFTA and its effects were and have continued to be hotly debated. Joseph Stiglitz, one of the American drafters of the agreement, came out against it in 2004 and remains so. More than twenty years later, Brad DeLong, another of the American drafters, remains hesitantly supportive. Organized labor continues to push for its repeal, though in recent years in the US, they've been more focused on making it easier for immigrants to enter the US and become naturalized. If successful, this would partly mitigate the problem of labor being less able to cross the border than capital.
In 2018 Donald Trump made a deal to replace the much maligned NAFTA with the
identical very similar USMCA. On July 1, 2020 the USMCA entered into force, officially ending NAFTA.
So far, U.S. conservatives and conspiracy theorists have not complained as much about the USMCA despite it being similar to NAFTA, likely becaus their "lord and savior" was behind it.
During its existence conspiracy nuts worried about the construction of a NAFTA Superhighway as a product of the hypothetical North American Union. The highway will presumably be paid for in Ameros.[citation NOT needed]
Indeed, NAFTA was far more beneficial for Mexico than for the other two countries, although it was also good for at least for America, with Canada being to some extent the only loser of the agreement. A 2015 study found that Mexico's welfare increases by 1.31%, U.S.'s welfare increases by 0.08%, and Canada's welfare declines by 0.06%, with intra-bloc trade increases by 118% for Mexico, 11% for Canada, and 41% for the U.S. NAFTA also had a positive impact in real wages in the three countries, although, again, Mexico was the biggest winner. 
Critics point out that NAFTA took American jobs to Mexico. However, fewer than 5 percent (roughly 200,000 out of 4 million people) of US workers who have lost jobs from sizable layoffs (such as when large plants close down) can be attributed to rising imports from Mexico, and for every net job lost in this definition, the gains to the US economy were about $450,000, owing to enhanced productivity of the workforce, a broader range of goods and services, and lower prices at the checkout counter for households.
- Gertz, Geoffrey, "5 things to know about USMCA the new NAFTA", Brookings
- Caliendo, Lorenzo; Parro, Fernando (2015-01-01). "Estimates of the Trade and Welfare Effects of NAFTA". The Review of Economic Studies 82 (1): 1–44. doi:10.1093/restud/rdu035. ISSN 0034-6527.
- See the Wikipedia article on NAFTA's effect on United States employment.
- "NAFTA Rejoinder: The US Effects Are Clearly Positive for Most Workers (Part II)" (in en). 2014-07-30.