Richards Speech on NAFTA, November 1, 1993
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an accord signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States in 1992 to establish a free-trade zone in North America. NAFTA lifted most tariffs between the signing nations and called for the gradual elimination of most other trade barriers over a period of 15 years. NAFTA affects numerous major industries, including agriculture, automobile and textile manufacture, telecommunications, financial services, energy, and trucking. In addition to eliminating trade barriers, it also provides for labor and environmental cooperation between the three nations.
Governor Richards was a staunch advocate of NAFTA and took a leading role in persuading Congress to ratify the pact. For Texas, Richards believed, NAFTA was the best way to address the long-neglected problems along the Texas-Mexico border, from immigration to the environment. In addition, Texas cities stood to benefit from the increased trade. This speech, made in Washingon, D.C., summarizes her arguments in favor of the agreement.
NAFTA has been severely criticized by labor leaders, who point to manufacturing jobs lost in the U.S. when companies moved their plants to Mexico. Proponents of NAFTA say this job loss is offset by the jobs created by increased exports to Mexico and Canada. Environmental groups also oppose NAFTA, saying that pollution and food safety laws cannot be effectively enforced under the agreement.