Defending NAFTA


In the middle of a packed Mandel Hall a College third-year held up a sign that read “Salinas+NAFTA=Criminal.” Several rows ahead of him, about 20 Mexican American graduate students watched the stage. All eyes were fixed on the compact, neatly dressed man at the podium—former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Salinas, a driving force behind the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), offered an unflinching defense of the 1994 law. His Friday visit was his first to the University since 1991, when he came to promote the pending agreement, and the first in a lecture series on NAFTA sponsored by the Katz Center for Mexican Studies.

Salinas commended the Katz Center and the city of Chicago’s Mexican community, the second largest in the United States. Betraying a fierce nationalism, he lamented that Mexico has continued in the past decade to suffer high numbers of emigrations at the U.S. border (According to the U.S. embassy in Mexico, the estimated unauthorized resident population from Mexico increased from about 2 million in 1990 to 4.8 million in January 2000.) “It is a fatality of geography and a destiny of history that we happened to be neighbors.”

Still, he rejected assertions that NAFTA was responsible for the emigrations, attributing them instead to the three-year-old U.S. recession, which has resulted in a stagnant Mexican economy.

By Meredith Meyer, ’07

December 6, 2004