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It is time to conclude that NAFTA--the North American Free Trade Agreement--is a success It is nearly seven years since the ratification of NAFTA nearly seven years since then-Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen argued and President Clinton decided that NAFTA should be the second major initiative of his administration The major argument for NAFTA was that it was the best thing the United States could do to raise the chances for Mexico to become democratic and prosperous and that the United States had both a strong interest and a neighborly duty to try to help Mexican political and economic development By that yardstick NAFTA has been a clear success NAFTA has helped Mexico economically Over the past five years real GDP has grown at 55 percent per year Even including the sharp shock of the 1995 peso crisis Mexican real GDP has grown at 38 percent per year since the ratification of NAFTA The urban unemployment rate that was 6 percent in 1992 and rose to 85 percent in 1995 is now less than 4 percent The Mexican boom has been led by the manufacturing construction transportation and communications sectors Most of all the Mexican boom has been led by exports next year Mexicos real exports will be more than three times as large as they were at the ratification of NAFTA and as a share of GDP exports have grown from a little more than 10 to 17 percent It is here--in the growing volume of exports and in the building-up of export industries--that NAFTA has made the difference Four-fifths of Mexicos exports go to the United States More than two-thirds of Mexicos imports come from the United States NAFTA guarantees Mexican producers tariff- and quota-free access to the American market Without this guarantee a smaller number of Mexican exporters would dare try to develop the strong links with the market north of the Rio Grande that have enabled them to sell their exports
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