Speakers attacked the North American Free Trade Agreement at a panel held at the Kassar-Foxboro Auditorium Monday night, saying it and other international pacts are good for corporations, destructive to workers and promote American hegemony over its neighbors.
The event, "Better Neighbors: A New Way Forward for North America," was billed as a panel on the effects of NAFTA, a pact enacted in 1994 that eliminated many tariffs in trade among the continent's countries. But most of the discussion focused on the Security and Prosperity Partnership - the "Prosperity" portion of which is sometimes called "NAFTA Plus" - a set of economic and security goals endorsed in March 2005 by the leaders from the United States, Mexico and Canada. The SPP, according to Manuel Perez Rocha, an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, is in the unique position of facing opposition from both conservative groups, who fear it will erase national borders to establish a "North American Union," and from progressive groups, who say it serves only corporate interests.
Perez Rocha called the SPP a "hijacking of public policy," saying it was not passed through the appropriate political channels. He further warned that it would continue to deregulate big businesses, which he said were the only stakeholders in the negotiations.
SPP negotiations were undemocratic and not transparent, said Carleen Pickard, a regional organizer for the Council of Canadians, a citizen's group against U.S.-Canadian free trade. Her organization printed a detailed breakdown of the SPP along with tiny pins declaring, "I didn't vote for the SPP." Though the governments of the three countries involved had little to do with SPP negotiations, they can play a big role in protesting it, she said, urging the dozen or so students present to contact their Congressional representatives.
Though the SPP has flown under the radars of many in the United States, Perez Rocha predicted it would become a bigger issue in the run-up to the April 20 meeting of the three North American heads of state in New Orleans.
Hector Sanchez of Global Exchange, a fair trade and social justice group, labeled NAFTA, nearing its 15th year, a failure. Though it promised to decrease poverty and migration, it has done neither, but rather, it has increased income disparities and pushed Mexicans to seek work across the border, he said...