Impact of NAFTA’s overhaul on North American workforce

Recently, one of the biggest changes we have seen in US – Mexico economic relations is the overhaul of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This has not just changed business operations in the United States, but has also impacted the employment opportunities for workers in Mexico. Furthermore, with a more labor-friendly Mexican President we will surely start seeing changes in the workforce for the majority of North America.

With the proposed overhaul of NAFTA (currently being referred to as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement – USMCA), the US could see some modest growth to their economy and also have the opportunity to raise the overall employment levels in the country. However, it could also have some direct effect on the Mexican labor market. With an increase in the number of products that must be made in the US for a variety of different market sectors, this may affect factory workers in Mexico who had previously done the work in these proposed transitions.

Conversely, under the current administration, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was able to create a streamlined H-2A visa process for Mexican farm workers. This has since become the most straightforward and direct visa application for the country as the financial losses that farmers were experiencing based on lost crops and delayed planting due to insufficient farm hands, was astronomical and extremely detrimental to the farmers and the overall US economy. Since many workers who live in the States are not interested in doing laborious farm work for the proposed amount of pay that the farmers can offer, it is in the best interest of the US economy to be able to bring in Mexican workers at a faster rate once they are needed for the season.

In spite of the accelerated H2 process, the current immigration debate in the US appears to be a potential threat to the desire for employers to be able to hire workers from Mexico. Whether it is ‘the wall’ or a general opposition to migrants crossing the US southern border, there appears to be a gap between the political rhetoric and the realities of business hiring needs.

While it goes without question that there are some positive elements to the USMCA that will surely benefit those in the United States, it also leads to questions as to how much the proposed agreement and changes will alter the working conditions for others. With increasing environmental and labor regulations, it may it be harder for Mexican workers to secure the jobs they had previously held, even with the adapted H-2A visa application process. Additionally, with more work having to be completed in the United States, less work may be available for Mexican workers in Mexico as well when factories are being relocated back to the United States to comply with the changes proposed in the USMCA.

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