The Multinational Monitor

May 1997 · VOLUME 18 · NUMBER 5

L E T T E R S    T O    T H E    E D I T O R

NAFTA Criticism Needs Nuance

Multinational Monitor's unrelenting criticism, both overt and tacit, of the NAFTA could benefit from some nuance. "NAFTA Numbers: Three Years of NAFTA Facts," (January/February 1997) attributed to NAFTA's "documentable track record" a number of claims that are irrelevant and/or deceptive. To cite one example among many, you publish the general U.S.-Mexico trade balance statistics for the years before and after NAFTA, implying that NAFTA caused the discrepancy. Similarly, you publish the Economic Policy Institute's "estimated jobs lost due to NAFTA." This is incorrect, or at least deceptive. NAFTA (the trade agreement) did not cause the shift in the trade balance or cause any job loss whatever. Rather, the shift and the subsequent job loss is attributable to the 1994 peso devaluation and the subsequent U.S. guarantee of the Mexican debt. The bailout shifted the current account balance with Mexico, leading to the importation of more Mexican goods to compensate. NAFTA did not require or cause the bailout; it was caused by Carlos Salinas' corruption and irresponsibility, combined with Bill Clinton's gullibility (among other nasty adjectives), leading to a political decision with painful consequences. One could credibly argue that, without NAFTA, the bailout would not have occurred, but this is not the same as simplistically claiming that the free trade agreement directly caused job loss.

Aaron X. Fellmeth,
New Haven, Connecticut

Remembering the Children

Congratulations on your articles on child labor ("The Scourge of Child Labor," January/February 1997). I was disappointed that you did not mention our work in that field. I testified on the issue of child labor before the subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the House Committee on International Relations on July 15, 1996 to advocate that the World Bank include a policy against child labor in its financed projects. In that testimony, I focused on two Bank projects -- a dam project and a coal project -- which will stimulate child labor in the Indian state of Orissa, where child labor is prevalent. Little hands will be working in the construction of the Naraj barrage ("dam") near Cuttack, which will require 130,000 cubic meters of earthwork and 320,000 cubic meters of concrete. And tribal children will no doubt be found working in the backyard of the new mines of Coal India which is going to displace 10,455 persons (many of whom are tribal people.) I also emphasized in the testimony that the World Bank in a discussion paper cites the industries which rely on child labor as examples of success.

Forgotten Children is a non-profit organization that I founded after I personally witnessed children working in factories in India and Nepal. Its mission is to improve the life of working and street children through educational projects. There are no paid staff in the U.S. office. Most of the funds raised are sent to India.

We are in the second year of our first project against child labor. The project is managed by Sister Rita Thyveettill, a Catholic nun from the order of the Cross of Chavanod. Sister Rita is from Tamil Nadu and is well aware of the crying needs of working children. The goal of our project is to provide free basic education to 50 working children. Sister Rita insists that we work not only with the children but also with their families. Therefore a substitute income for a working child is offered in the form of a dairy cow as an incentive to send the child to school in the evening and as compensation for the lost income of the child when she or he is studying. Our aim is to buy 10 more cows for 1997 and to contribute to the teacher's salary and educational supplies. One cow costs $175.

Francoise Remington,
Executive Director,
Forgotten Children
Arlington, VA 22201

# END #