The concept of globalization – the creation of an integrated global economy driven by international trade and investment – often brings forth positive proponents, but many fail to address the downside. Free trade supposedly leads to the creation of more jobs, the circulation of higher wages in developing countries, and lower prices for consumers overall. In spite of these alleged benefits, globalization brings significant challenges, with the greatest concern being that it has made the rich richer, and the poor poorer.
America’s neighboring country, Mexico, often receives harsh criticism in the US, particularly from presidential candidate Donald Trump who claims Mexicans are “taking our jobs”. Trump believes the shift of employment opportunities to Mexico deprives American citizens of numerous jobs; he often cites Carrier, an air conditioning company, for displacing 1,400 jobs and castigates Ford for outsourcing current manufacturing jobs to Mexico as well. Although job displacement in the US is not to be disregarded, Mexico faces similar, if not worse, consequences for their citizens. The negative cause and effect of globalization on Mexico must be considered, including economic, cultural, and environmental effects. The argument that globalization makes every country better off needs to be challenged.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1994, intended to eliminate tariffs between Mexico, the United States, and Canada. However, its lingering effects have become an instrument of displacement between regions within Mexico. While NAFTA has helped increase Mexico’s GDP by 18.6% since its foundation, it has also created a huge distinction between Northern and Southern Mexico. Northern Mexican states have had “high exposure” to foreign investors because their export-oriented industries are attractive, and because farmers are often able to sell their land because of their proximity to the United States. “Low exposure” states, primarily in southern Mexico, have generally focused on agricultural production. These less industrialized states have had a decrease in annual labor earnings of around 10%. Deals like NAFTA have drastically affected such farmers, who cannot afford to compete with significantly lower import prices.
Therefore, though foreign direct investment may have increased, domestic investment has decreased with local companies going bankrupt or struggling to be self-sufficient. From this comes large numbers of unemployed workers who, finding themselves in poverty, frequently ends up as illegal immigrants in the United States. Ironically, the same illegal immigrants sometimes find themselves working for the corporations who put them out of business in the first place. As Donald Trump argues for deportation of illegal immigrants, it is upsetting to realize that many of these immigrants are simply fighting for a better life after suffering from from a free trade agreement that America created. The poverty rate in Mexico has faced many fluctuations in the last two decades, but the percentage has decreased only marginally from 52.3% in 1994 to 46.2% in 2014. The effects of poverty are seen within all issues in Mexican society today: violent crime, drug wars, and illegal immigration. Trump asserts that free trade agreements have damaging effects, but his explanation neglects the outcomes for Mexico and focuses only on the side effects for America.
The levels of education differ amongst social classes in Mexico. This disparity in education matches the income disparity between Northern and Southern Mexican states. In order to make a living in Mexico, many southern-state families have resorted to becoming migrant farmers. This population remains invisible in the eyes of many citizens because they are constantly migrating to different cities with the change of a season. Many families cannot afford to send their children to school, and this cycle of poverty continues to exist because children are sent to work instead of schools to provide for their families.
One unique solution could be America allowing the children of Mexican migrant workers to receive an American education since some of these children are born in American cities. Everyday workers cross the border for a chance to increase their literacy and eventually have better opportunities for their future. Many of their children are living in poverty, and these are often cited as children who have no literacy or do not have proper health care treatment. They cross the border from Third World to First World Monday to Friday, struggling to understand the violence and drugs that surround their world at home with the freedom and education that center their lives at school. What is even more unfortunate is, for some students, they eventually have to move as the season changes - such is the nature of a migrant family. Attempts to increase benefits and opportunities for Mexican citizens are often difficult to enact, especially when they have already lost so much.
Furthermore, the development of industries in Mexico has created an environment that is particularly harmful to the health of Mexican citizens. The pollution rates have skyrocketed in Mexico City, and the capital recently banned two out of every five private vehicles on the road. Although this shows that emergency measures have already been implemented to enhance air quality, the World Health Organization advises at least double the amount provisions. Many of these vehicles average around fourteen-years-old; the cars emit high levels of black carbon, and their contribution towards ozone buildup is around 90% of the pollutants in the air. At schools, outdoor recreation is prohibited, and individuals who suffer from lung or heart disease are asked to remain indoors during the afternoons when ozone levels are at their most toxic. Mexico is looking to improve the quality of air for its inhabitants, but at its current rate of industrialization, this measure is highly difficult to obtain. If the Mexican government is able to replace levels of black carbon with ultra-low levels of sulfur, a method the United States has advised, they can reduce an average of two-thousands premature deaths in Mexico City annually.
Globalization, like many process of international integration, has profoundly reshaped developing economies; however, its detrimental effects are not to be disregarded. Although many can benefit from free trade and lower tariffs, the poor social classes are generally reduced to even greater deficiency. Job displacement, environmental costs, and insufficient education are just a few of the many ramifications that continue the cycle of poverty for Mexican citizens. One does not need to look far to see that globalization is not always favorable, and within each developing country there are important issues that need to be addressed.
- Omil Xia