June 28, 2018
Mexico seems all but certain to elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-wing candidate, as president this weekend. One of the main factors is the contempt with which the Mexican public regards a political and economic elite that have run the country in a way that has produced few benefits for the bulk of the population. It is striking that this uprising is taking place almost a quarter century into the NAFTA era.
We were told endlessly by our elites that NAFTA was doing great things for Mexico. The Washington Post stands out as a particular villain in this story. It repeatedly ran fantasy pieces on how NAFTA was creating a thriving middle class in Mexico.
The Post even went full Trump back in 2007 when it made up the absurd claim that NAFTA had led Mexico’s economy to quadruple between 1998 and 2007. The actual figure was 84.2 percent. Unfortunately, the Washington Post has not been the only institution to make up numbers to promote NAFTA. The World Bank got into the act too.
A true assessment of the impact of NAFTA on Mexico would require considerable research, but just at the basic level of GDP growth it has been a disaster. Mexico’s per capita GDP has risen at just a 1.2 percent annual rate since 1993. This compares to a 1.5 percent annual rate in the United States. This means that the countries are even further apart economically today than when the agreement took effect in 1994, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the NAFTA proponents to acknowledge that it might not have been a good deal.