The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

After 3 years of difficult negotiations, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into affect on January 1, 1994 . Inextricably tied to the maquiladora program, the Agreement attempted to bolster trade relationships between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The Agreement will completely eliminate tariffs over the years to come and will dissolve many other trade barriers such as quotas. On the day of its advent, NAFTA immediately affected approximately half of the agricultural trade between the U.S. and Mexico. "Import sensitive" items—such as Mexico's corn and beans and the United States' orange juice and sugar—are planned to be free of tariffs over the next 15 years.

The Agreement stimulated border-region industrial growth, which brought on many environmental problems. Thus, NAFTA established two institutions to help deal with the vast environmental concerns along the U.S.-Mexican border. The Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) is a binational organization which attempts to help develop environmental infrastructure projects related to wastewater treatment, the prevention of water pollution, and the management of municipal solid waste.

The NADBank was also set up to work in conjunction with the BECC, guaranteeing loans for projects certified by the environmental commission. Both the U.S. and Mexican governments supply the funds to the bank. The difficulties facing this financial organization are developing institutional capacity in the target communities.

In essence, NAFTA has fueled the population growth of the border region, focusing the attention of the both the U.S. and Mexican governments on the environmental, social, and political dilemmas in the region.

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