NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

NAFTA Transforms Northern Mexico

October 29, 1999

Observers compare what is happening to northern sections of Mexico to what occurred in the southeastern U.S. four decades ago: industries are moving in and transforming whole regions from impoverished to middle-class lifestyles.

The catalyst, they say, has been the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed five years ago.

  • U.S. manufacturers have hired 600,000 new workers in Mexico -- a pace of job creation almost identical to what took place in the U.S. Southeast in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Workers who once sought a better life in the U.S. are settling in northern Mexico to work in factories and build malls and multiplexes reminiscent of the U.S. Sun Belt.
  • Mexican towns that have outgrown their native work forces are attracting migrants from other parts of the country -- and morning rush hours are replacing afternoon siestas.
  • U.S. corporate executives are beginning to see Mexico as a natural extension of the U.S. economy -- and a source of new and lucrative markets.

Young girls now make 225 pesos a week sewing blue jeans. That compares to the 100 pesos four women formerly earned, combined, from making and selling tortillas door-to-door.

Source: Joel Millman, "What Southeast Was to U.S. Companies, Mexico Is Becoming," Wall Street Journal, October 29, 1999.


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