Free Trade Pact Has Hurt the Farming Sector, Say Bishops

Mexican and U.S. Prelates Point Out Problems

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MEXICO CITY, OCT. 10, 2003 ( Economic development that puts people in first place might provide the answer to the negative impact of U.S.-Mexican trade on small farmers, bishops from both countries said.

That is one of the conclusions of the recent meeting of members of the Commission for Social Pastoral Care (CEPS) of the Mexican and U.S. bishops’ conferences, as well as representatives and specialists of the farming sector.

Unemployment increased by 2 million in the Mexican agricultural sector since 1997. More than 300,000 Mexicans cross the border annually in search of work, a CEPS statement said.

The effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement came under scrutiny. CEPS said the negative effects on Mexico include “the collapse of the productive structure” and “the weakening in workers’ acquisitive power — the current minimum salary represents 22.9% of the salary of 20 years ago.”

Mexico has trade agreements with 32 countries, “but its economy is not very competitive and it allocates 25% of its gross national product to exports and an equal percentage to imports, compared to the 8% and 10%, respectively, allocated by the United States and Japan.” The participants concluded that in Mexico “it is necessary to re-establish the strength of the internal market.”

The U.S. academics said that the income of U.S. farm families “has been eroded,” as the subsidies they receive are small and are directed primarily to large corporations.

Among the U.S. episcopal representatives was Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida, of the Migration Committee. The Mexican Episcopal representatives included Archbishop Sergio Obeso of Xalapa, president of CEPS.

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