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  February 18, 2014

'Tres Amigos' Mexico Summit Advancing Neoliberal Reforms

John Ackerman and Jeff Faux discuss how the meeting between the heads of Canada, Mexico and the United States will advance policies that increase inequality and fuel drug-related violence in Mexico
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John M. Ackerman is a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Editor-in-Chief of the Mexican Law Review and a columnist with both La Jornada newspaper and Proceso magazine. Blog: Twitter: @JohnMAckerman

Jeff Faux is the Founder and now Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC. He is an activist, economist,  and writer, and has written extensively on issues from globalization to neighborhood development. His latest book is The Servant Economy: Where America's Elite is Sending the Middle Class.


JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

The so-called Tres Amigos Summit is under way in Mexico right now, bringing together the leaders of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Now joining us to give their response are two guests.

We're joined by John Ackerman--well, Jeff Faux. He's the founder and new distinguished fellow of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

And we're also joined by John Ackerman, professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, editor-in-chief of The Mexican Law Review, and columnist with both the La Jornada newspaper and the Proceso magazine.

Thank you so much for both joining us. And let's start with Jeff.


NOOR: So, Jeff, you know, we just passed the 20th anniversary of NAFTA. And one of the main priorities of the summit in Mexico is to bring the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. together on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP. Critics have called the TPP NAFTA on steroids. What's your response?

FAUX: Well, it certainly is. NAFTA has been the model for trade agreements for the last 20 years, and it's set the example, it's set the model for elites and corporations from each country, trading off the interests of their workers in favor of the profits for their multinational corporations. This is the model of globalization we've been following, and NAFTA set the template.

Right now Obama's worried because his TPP program is in trouble in Congress. People are getting, after 20 years, that NAFTA hasn't worked and these trade agreements haven't worked. In NAFTA, the American people were promised more jobs. We got less jobs. They were promised higher wages. Wages went down. And they were promised less illegal immigration from Mexico, and what NAFTA did was disrupt the agricultural sector and small business sector of Mexico so badly that, as we know, illegal immigration exploded. So you got a national crisis. No matter how you look at NAFTA, it hasn't worked, and people are beginning to get that.

NOOR: And, John, I wanted to bring you into the conversation. How does oil fit in the picture of what's happening today in Mexico?

JOHN ACKERMAN, LAW PROFESSOR, UNAM: Yeah. Well, ditto. I think we should follow up on what Jeff's saying. Here in Mexico, the situation is very similar. Economic growth, equality, strengthening of the economy in Mexico has not happened. These were promises also of 20 years ago. And what we've had is an increase in subordination of any capacity of the Mexican state to actually direct economic development, have a national development program, redistribute wealth and income, and we've just had a consolidation of neoliberal economic policies. This has been the real role of NAFTA in Mexico for the last 20 years. It's had an economic role, as Jeff mentioned, in tearing apart our countryside.

But it's also had a very clear political role. And in recent months, we've just had a major reform to the Mexican Constitution in oil, which is sort of the consolidation of this frenzy to privatize everything, which has been consolidated by NAFTA over the last 20 years.

Here in Mexico, the visit by Obama is seen as one more of these courtesy calls that he has been giving to Calderón, and now Peña Nieto, boosting up public legitimacy or trying to boost up public legitimacy of a failing and a weak president down here in Mexico, in exchange for Mexico playing its part in NAFTA, which is a subordinate part, which is a part based on direct exploitation of natural resources, creating environmental and economic disaster, and really closing off the possibilities for autonomous and strong economic development in Mexico, which would in the end limit immigration and be good for the Mexican people in general.

So, really, from Mexico we're seeing things in a very similar way as Jeff is from Washington.

NOOR: And we just have one minute left in this first part of this interview. We'll continue in a longer discussion in part two. But, Jeff, you just had a piece in the Huffington Post talking about how NAFTA has helped spark this increase in drug violence in Mexico. The Mexican president told The Wall Street Journal drug violence has been contained, isolated. What's your response?

FAUX: Well, I think anyone who was in Mexico or been to Mexico recently knows that it certainly hasn't been contained. This is the dirty little secret of NAFTA that nobody wants to talk about, and that is the way in which NAFTA, by opening up the borders in an unregulated way, paved the way for a massive increase in the drug business between Mexico and the United States. Free trade after NAFTA turned out to be, to some degree, drugs from Mexico in exchange for guns from the United States. And it has cost Mexico, by the estimates I've seen, 80,000 murders over the last six or seven years. And the state of Michoacán, as well as others, is close to chaos because of this.

NOOR: And we're going to hold this conversation here. There's a lot more to talk about. So go to for the extended interview.

Thank you so much for joining us.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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