Americas Altered States


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americas altered states NAFTA3




Three years after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created the largest free trade area in the world, the debate rages on.
Critics say NAFTA is a failure that its member countries the United States, Mexico and Canada should abandon. Its a trade agreement from hell, according to the consumer group Public Citizen.
Supporters call NAFTA a success and want it to expand across Latin America. Former Commerce Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor calls it a win-win situation for everyone.
Opinions grow particularly heated when the focus turns to the United States and Mexico.
By the time NAFTA went into effect Jan. 1, 1994, the United States and Canada already had five years of experience with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Provisions under that agreement continued basically unchanged for the two developed nations under NAFTA. Mexico, on the other hand, was a developing country where such issues as lower labor costs, illegal immigrants and environmental problems created a target for NAFTA opponents.
Many analysts say its too early to judge NAFTAs impact on U.S.-Mexico trade, in part because many of its provisions have yet to take effect. While some tariffs and nontariff barriers were eliminated immediately, others phase out gradually through 2008.
More important, trade agreements are directly influenced by macroeconomic changes in individual countries and globally, such as changes in income and exchange rates. In Mexicos case, the peso devaluation during NAFTAs infancy in late 1994 plunged the country into a severe recession and sharply altered trade flows.
A clear-cut assessment of NAFTA also is difficult because many of Mexicos trade liberalization policies were in effect before NAFTA began, prompted by Mexicos membership in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its ongoing domestic reforms.
It is important to realize that NAFTA is not the opening up of Mexico, said Jonathan Heath, a Mexico City economist. The opening up of Mexico had occurred before NAFTA. NAFTA is the consolidation of that opening up and what it really represents is the locking in of trade liberalization for Mexico.
Some analysts say NAFTA can be judged in part by examining what would have happened without the trade agreement. For example, trade disputes have continued to erupt, but NAFTA provides a forum for hearings and resolution.
For now, the fairest statement about NAFTA may be that neither the critics worst fears nor the supporters rosiest forecasts has materialized.
Nonetheless, many analysts agree that NAFTA has made a mark. U.S.-Mexico trade continues to grow, and NAFTA and the promises it brings have lessened the impact of the Mexican recession and quickened its recovery. Healthy, growing bilateral trade, they say, depends on healthy, growing economies, and Mexicos recovery and continuing economic liberalization should fuel that trend.
NAFTA is a comprehensive agreement designed to improve virtually all aspects of trade between the three partners.
NAFTA eliminates tariffs completely over several years and removes many nontariff barriers like quotas. Many tariffs ended the day NAFTA took effect: They affected half of all U.S. exports to Mexico, such as semiconductors and computers, telecommunications and electronic equipment and medical devices.
Tariffs on other products fall over a longer period of time. For example, U.S. automotive parts entering Mexico see a 75 percent reduction in duties over the first five years of NAFTA, with the rest phased out over 10 years.
About half the agricultural products traded between the two countries had tariffs cut immediately, but "import sensitive" items such as corn and beans for Mexico and orange juice and sugar for the United States phase out over 15 years.
From the beginning, critics have said NAFTA benefits Mexican more than U.S. interests, lures U.S. jobs away to lower-paying wages in Mexico and litters the two countries' border towns with industrial pollution.
"It's staggering how far NAFTA has fallen short of the promises of its proponents," says Chris McGinn, deputy director of global trade for Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer group. "It has failed to improve the environment and public health along the Mexican border. It has failed to create the jobs it promised. It has turned a trade surplus into a massive deficit."
He joins the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters Union ... more

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Domestication

The beginning of human and animal interaction has been triggered by the progress of technology. Animals have been utilized for work, recreation, companionship as well as medical and scientific projects. Why are there so many different kinds of domesticated animal species suited for captivity? Many pets, such as different dog and livestock breeds, were bred to fulfill different purposes for human needs. The process of selective breeding of animals was at first unintentional and probably unobserved. For example, large, aggressive, and big-horned bulls were probably too dangerous to keep around and so did not survive to reproduce these characteristics. Thus, over time, early farmers unknowingly altered the genetic make-up of the life forms they most relied on.
According to Prof. Jared Diamond, must meet six criteria, in order to be considered for domestication: 1. Flexible diet (not too cumbersome or expensive)2. Grow up reasonably fast (see growth rate) 3. Be able to breed in captivity 4. Pleasant disposition 5. Unlikely to panic and 6. Modifiable social hierarchy (recognize a human as its leader).
Modifications of body size reflecting the uses to which the animal is put, loss of speed and agility, loss or decrease in size of horns or other natural weapons, biological specialization for human needs (e.g., wool production in sheep), are apparent over time. Smaller changes in disposition and intelligence occurred also. Some species of domestic animals could not survive now without human care and protection. Others, however, like the pig, can revert back easily to life in the wild. An even more fundamental reason for the presence of animals in Near Eastern agriculture, however, derives from the nutritional value of cereal grains. Humans need 12 amino acids to survive and reproduce. Cereal grains, however, supply adequate quantities of only two of the 12. Cereal diets must therefore be supplemented with protein from other sources.
Animal protein from meat or milk products is one way to create a sustaining diet based on cereals, and this was part of the answer in the Near East. Lentils and dry peas, chick peas (or garbanzos) eventually provided other good supplements found in ancient diets in the region. Another food source is visible in the background of the photo at top left: the date palm. The Greeks relied heavily on olives, both green and ripe, the Babylonians raised figs and dates. The Chinese, with a similar cereal economy, domesticated the protein-rich soy bean to supplement the grains in their diet (wheat, millet, rice). Humans also need many vitamins and at least trace amounts of many elements; these needs are met by including in the diet all sorts of edible plants such as onions, garlic, lentils, garbanzos, cabbage, turnips, fruits, and berries, etc.
A wholly distinctive and different agriculture grew up in the New World, in the Americas. Large domestic animals were conspicuously absent in these ancient economies. The explanation for the contrast with the Old World is not hard to find: their main food plants, corn, squash, and beans (add potatoes in South America) provide, if eaten together, all 12 of the necessary amino acids. The supplementary foods grown by early American farmers include tomatoes and peppers, which have spread all over the world since 1492. For example, the Near East, the cradle lands of both Western and Islamic civilizations, used animals almost from the beginning of settled life both for food and for labor. This was not accidental. The reasons for this cultural adaptation can be seen in terms of the special needs of Near Eastern cereal-growers: wheat and barley require elaborate (labor-intensive) preparation of the fields (seed beds) so that the grain will out-compete weeds. Using animals, (almost any large animal will do) to drag a scratch plow makes the job easier and quicker for humans. Near Eastern cereal-growers thus became livestock raisers. Human communities have been ingenious at finding ways to adapt to the limitations of the food sources available in their local community. Since they possess evolving cultures [and do not have to evolve biological features to meet new conditions], they may quickly adapt themselves and their way of life to take advantage of new opportunities or meet new challenges. Animals were of vital importance to prehistoric farmers. They provide assistance ... more

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