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2003 Summer Institute for Teachers

Ten Years After NAFTA:
How Has Globalization Affected Mexico?

The following are notes from the teacher discussions. Bulleted points represent the opinions of individual teachers and are not necessarily those of the Center for Latin American Studies.

Notes From Discussion One— What Is Globalization?

What is globalization? What does it mean? Is it a neutral concept?

Group Definition: Globalization is a process, whether intended or unintended, by which national economies become increasingly integrated due to changing technology. This integration has an impact on populations and cultures.

Note: Each bullet represents a comment made by one participant.

  • Globalization affects population growth, urban development and transportation.
  • Globalization began as an unplanned outgrowth of technological change, but corporations saw the possibility of economic benefit and began harnessing the process.
  • No, I think globalization was planned by corporations from the beginning.
  • There is more planning today, with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and free trade agreements like NAFTA.
  • In the conflict between globalization and national economies, the global economy is winning out.
  • People push the process further for economic gain, but there is a downside. There is a loss of cultural uniqueness.
  • There are definitely winners and losers.

Where did globalization come from?

  • Globalization is a 20th century concept.
  • Imperialism was nation-based. Globalization entered in the 1970s with increases in trade, travel and communication.
  • Now nations cannot compete with the global movement of speculative capital that is possible with new technology?

What is globalization expected to achieve?

  • The forces of globalization want to impose a capitalist set of values on the world that do not fit very well.
  • Globalization is leading to nonsustainable use of resources.
  • Some want globalization to create a world like the United States.
  • Globalization should be about creating global citizenship.
  • The goal of globalization is economic development worldwide through trade to increase wealth, which may or may not be equitably distributed

Is globalization inevitable?

  • Yes. The corporations are in control. Their power is too great for people to control.
  • It’s not inevitable in the long-term. Conditions change because ideas change to suit new situations.
  • Integration is inevitable, but the current structure is not. That will change with new ideas and conditions.

Notes From Discussion Two— What Are the Pros and Cons of Globalization?

Pros Cons
The good side of the loss of cultural uniqueness is it breaks down the “us vs. them” mentality. Loss of cultural uniqueness.
Growing sense of a global community. Cultures aren’t necessarily lost but shared. Rootlessness and the insecurity of local communities.
Spread of women’s rights. Male insecurity.
Longer life span for the average person. Overpopulation — which may be temporary.
More choices. Choices are not available equally to everyone. For example, native peoples are being forced into choices. Non-western peoples and those in developing countries have fewer real choices.
The spread of globally accepted human rights and organizations like Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders. Violent anger of those impatient for quick justice and fairness.
The fact that the NAFTA side agreements on labor and the environment exist. The labor and environment side agreements are very weak.
Growing sense of global responsibility.  

Notes From Discussion Three — What’s next? Can NAFTA be reformed?

  • Reform requires that all actors want to be reformed.
  • Mexicans, at least the government, didn’t want the side agreements. Environmental and labor groups in the U.S. fought this agreement.
  • What needs to be changed is the inequity between the rich and the poor. There should be grassroots organization to work with educating the populace.
  • People need to vote.

How could we restructure NAFTA?

  • Do something similar to the EU. Have a list of standards. If you want to become part of the agreement, you must rise to them.
  • In the EU, the labor standards in Germany and France were the standards that other countries had to reach.
  • Regional labor blocs may be losing effectiveness because of global organizations like the WTO.
  • Why can’t we come together in solidarity to raise everyone? The EU can continue to nurture solidarity by expanding to Turkey, Russia, etc.
  • In the U.S. we have the concept of Manifest Destiny, which is a colonial history in regard to Latin America.

How can the labor and environmental standards be reformed?

  • We can’t shove reforms down their throats.
  • We need less arrogant leaders in the U.S. and to work through grassroots organizations.
  • Use the carrot and not the stick to persuade other countries.
  • Increase the presence of NGOs to work at the grassroots level to pressure politicians, slowly. Grassroots must vote.
  • American unions should build ties with groups in Mexico.
  • We need alternate visions and the ability to communicate them. The world is thirsting for leadership.
  • Environmental NGO’s should get together to work toward specific goals. They should work to break down differences.

Research Questions

What is globalization?

Why did the U.S., Mexico and Canada sign NAFTA?

Why were the labor and environment side agreements added?

Does the labor side agreement protect workers?

Does the environmental side agreement protect the environment?

What is Chapter 11?

How has globalization affected growth in Mexico?

Who benefits from NAFTA?

What is sustainable development?

Should NAFTA be expanded?

© 2012, The Regents of the University of California, Last Updated - July 14, 2004