Can a Renegotiated NAFTA Bridge the Gap Between the ‘Two Mexicos’?

Can a Renegotiated NAFTA Bridge the Gap Between the ‘Two Mexicos’?
An effigy of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hangs from a mock gallows set up by protesting farmers at the foot of the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Aug. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Gustavo Martinez Contreras).

MEXICO CITY—When President Donald Trump announced his willingness to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement in May, having previously vowed to withdraw the United States from the pact, officials in Mexico and Canada scrambled to rescue a deal that advocates argue has produced overwhelmingly positive benefits for all three members. Indeed, many believe that the talks, which began in Washington in August and will continue through the end of the year, represent a historic opportunity to not only save NAFTA, but also revamp the agreement for the 21st century.

Yet on the same day that the negotiations began earlier this month, thousands of unionized Mexican workers streamed along Reforma Avenue in downtown Mexico City to protest the very deal that their government is fighting to defend. Carrying banners demanding a referendum on any revised agreement, they echoed the protests that had greeted the signing of NAFTA 25 years ago. It was a reminder, if any were needed, that although the trade agreement is vital to Mexico’s economy—80 percent of Mexican exports go to the U.S. market—NAFTA continues to serve as a symbol of deep inequality in the country.

While supporters credit NAFTA with transforming Mexico into a manufacturing giant and burgeoning tech hub, its critics say the agreement has only widened the gap between the “two Mexicos,” with an increasingly industrialized and middle-class north and a south that is still largely rural and impoverished. The reality, of course, is more complicated, and illustrates the need for wider reform in Mexico before the full benefits of NAFTA can be felt. Yet the path is fraught with obstacles.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review