North American Free Trade Agreement – A Hesitant Handshake Between Neighbors: May 1991

This is one of the first white papers I produced. It was written in 1991 as the basis for a startup company looking to do business on both sides of the border.

The introduction and the conclusion follow. You can download the entire document at the bottom.

From: North American Free Trade Agreement – A Hesitant Handshake Between Neighbors first published in May 1991.


On February 5, 1991 a joint statement was issued by the governments of Canada, The Republic of Mexico, and The United States of America. Although, this statement was not a surprise to many inhabitants of North America or even the rest of the world, its implications have initiated a road for North America without precedent in the last 500 years. A road not traveled on since Christopher Columbus first set foot here. The statement, short and concise will have ramifications, not only for the three countries involved, but also for the rest of the world for generations to come. The statement reads as follows:

“The President of the United States, George Bush; the President of the United Mexican States, Carlos Salinas de Gortari; and the Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney, announced today their intention to pursue a North American Free trade agreement creating one of the world’s largest liberalized markets.  Following consultations among their ministers responsible for international trade, the three leaders concluded that a North American free trade agreement would foster sustained economic growth through expanded trade and investment in a market comprising over 360 million people and $6 trillion in output. In so doing, the agreement would help all three countries meet the economic challenges they will face over the next decade.  Accordingly, the three leaders have agreed that their trade ministers should proceed as soon as possible, in accordance with each country’s domestic procedures, with trilateral negotiations aimed at a comprehensive North American free trade agreement. The goal would be to progressively eliminate obstacles to the flow of goods and services and to investment, provide for the protection of intellectual property rights, and establish a fair and expeditious dispute settlement mechanism.” (71)

The so called North American Free Trade Agreement is not a simple agreement between neighboring countries, but also an agreement which will attempt to unite not only diverse cultures but open gateways between two peoples that, although have been neighbors for centuries, have mistrusted each other throughout history. This agreement is not only a blending of economies, but a blending of cultures. Cultural aspects such as spooning salsa on eggs by Americans, or the drinking of Diet Coke by Mexicans have been long in coming. This cultural blending has been realized as the countries have opened up to each other. The ability to trade and exchange ideas without losing each others’ national identity will be the true test of the blending of these cultures, and a true opening of economics between neighbors.

The proposed free trade agreement is with precedent, in terms of economy. On July 1, 1967, the world witnessed the creation of the Common Market. The European Communities, as it is officially known, is the unification of twelve countries with the expressed intention of removing all barriers to trade movement of capital and peoples by 1992. The twelve countries comprising this market are: Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The Common Market will also incorporate 60 other nations under the Lome Convention. (81)

Realizing the implications of the Common Market and as President Bush so apply stated; “As we prepare to join a world linked primarily by economic, and not military competition” (22) we begin to realize the importance to North America to begin its quest for a new understanding of its people and its cultures and we should encourage our diverse governments to seek a unification of not only North America but also a unification of the Americas.

The North American Free Trade Agreement will not be an easy undertaking, but with the changes looming in the horizon and the changes that have already taken place the battle lines have already been drawn and the warriors have assembled. President Salinas de Gortari has stated that the battle on FTA will be fought; “between forward-looking visionaries and backward-looking protectionists.” (21) Let us all hope that our respective peoples become forward-looking visionaries and not become stagnated within our own fears.

This paper is an attempt to show the reader an overview of the proposed Free Trade Agreement. Any agreement between two countries is a complex transaction, and more often than not, emotion and not reason govern the results of any such undertaking. It is the intent of the author to show the reader some of the basic roadblocks in such an agreement and most importantly to get the reader to stimulate his mind into formulating new thoughts and understanding of the potential that this agreement has, not only economically, but also in the souls of the population of the Americas. This paper in no way intends to answer all the questions that arise, or even ask all the questions that 360 million people are probably asking themselves. It is intended to serve as a vehicle for the reader to grasp a very basic understanding of the issues that will challenge our leaders as they enter into negotiations for our respective populations. The reader will be challenged to look at the issues through the eyes of each individual country.

You can read the complete document by downloading the PDF at the end of this article.


Let us not forget what Ocatvio Paz said; “the precedent of European integration is very important for the future of our region.” (52) As our world changes, we should strive for a better understanding of our neighbors, and maybe even begin to integrate our cultures together, picking from the best and discarding from the worst, without losing our national identities. As the negotiations intensify, let us all remember that they are not only negotiations between countries but negotiations between people. One of the biggest pools of available labor lives right next door to the biggest consumer market in the world. (13) Let us all take advantage of this to better our respective world. As Octavio Paz once said, “Now we are condemned to live together, the past and the future side by side”; when talking about Mexican-American relations. (58) Let us learn from each other and strive to become friends, maybe, one day we will all reach across the border and offer each other an abrazo instead of a hesitant handshake.

Download the paper in PDF format here. (305Kb)