Bill Moyers: The Corporate Plot That Obama and Corporate Lobbyists Don't Want You to Know About
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BILL MOYERS: Did NAFTA bring us hundreds of thousands of jobs? Did we get better environmental and labor standards? What did we get?
DEAN BAKER: You'd be very hard-pressed to see us having gotten jobs from NAFTA. I mean, you had the number of companies you could identify that shift operations to Mexico. And that was clearly the main point of the agreement, because there are extensive chapters on investment and much of the agreement was about making it easy for, say, a General Electric, General Motors to shift their operations to Mexico and know that they would be guaranteed that there wouldn't be an issue of expropriation, they won't have to worry about repatriating their profits.
That was really the point of the agreement. So we did lose a lot of jobs to Mexico for that reason. In terms of the environmental and labor standards, those were thrown in as an afterthought. Now, you have had some effort to take advantage of those. I wouldn't really say it's had much impact. I mean, basically to help the situation some unions in Mexico, or workers trying to organize unions in Mexico.
But those really were an afterthought. And they weren't intended it's the way it's always treated. The investment stuff is serious. You don't play games with it. The labor stuff is like, "Oh, okay, you can talk about it." There's no real enforcement mechanism. No one's going to go to court and pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damage 'cause they didn't comply with the terms of the labor conditions.
BILL MOYERS: Same with the environment, right?
DEAN BAKER: Exactly. There's nothing-- and it's not that we couldn't put terms in. I mean, these are all intelligent people. If we wanted to put in terms with that agreement that had enforceable environmental standards, they would be there. And then if you had a situation where a company was breaking those standards, they would be paying very serious damages. That has not happened 'cause of NAFTA.
BILL MOYERS: Ross Perot, whom as you both know ran as a third-party candidate in 1992 against George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton warned us against NAFTA. Listen to this.
ROSS PEROT: If you're paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers, and you can move your factories south of the border, pay one dollar an hour for labor, hire young twenty-- that's assuming you've been in business for a long time, you've got a mature workforce.
Pay one dollar an hour for your labor, have no healthcare, that's the most expensive single element making the costs, have no environmental controls, no pollution controls, and no retirement, and you don't care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south.
BILL MOYERS: He was prophetic.
YVES SMITH: Yeah. Well, and the funny bit about his math is that actually one of the things that is distressing, and apparently this is actually worse in the TPP. But the companies had tended to move production even when the economic case was very weak. And so when that happens, what you're really seeing is a transfer from-- you're not really seeing shareholders benefit.
You're basically seeing a transfer from factory labor you're cutting their pay. to the top executives, there are industries like furniture. I mean, when-- think about it. We've got US wood, and the shipping to China, and then shipping it back.
You know, a lot of the values in that wood, you would lose a lot in the transit time, you also lose a lot in flexibility. And people in industries where you've got a lot of US content in things that are shipped overseas and then sent back, and they've said, "The economic case just isn't very strong. But we did it because our stock would get a pop from it."