After the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994, the U.S. saw large waves of illegal immigration from Mexico as small farmers, or campesinos, found it impossible to compete with heavily subsidized U.S. agriculture industry.
“They were sunk from day one,” Duncan Wood, director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, told KPBS during a San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting in Washington, D.C.
Wood called the updated United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement “vital” for North America as a whole but acknowledged that Mexico’s campesinos are getting the short end of the stick again. The prices for maize and other crops, which plummeted after NAFTA was signed, are expected to stay low amid rising mechanization and industrialization.
“The new agreement is more of the same, I’m afraid,” Wood said. “I don’t see the future of the Mexican campesino is going to be any better after this agreement.”
But Mexico’s President-Elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who takes office on December 1, has promised to make the poor his priority, and is more likely to provide subsidies to campesinos than previous administrations, he said.
“What has changed is that you now have a government in Mexico which is committed to providing support to workers in the field — to small farmers,” Wood said.
President Trump said Monday the new agreement “will give our farmers and ranchers far greater access to sell American-grown produce in Mexico and Canada,” including wheat, poultry products and more.