North American Free Trade Agreement

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North American Free Trade Agreement


Member States
English name North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
French name Accord de libre échange North America (ALÉNA)
Spanish name Tratado de Libre Comercio de America del Norte (TLCAN)
Organization type Trade association
status FTA
Member States 3 :

CanadaCanada Canada Mexico United States
United StatesUnited States 

Associate members


Official and working languages

English , French , Spanish

surface 21,588,638 km²
population 465 million (2011)
Population density 21.5 inhabitants per km²
gross domestic product $ 19,876 billion
(estimate, 2013)
Gross domestic product per inhabitant 42,744 USD
(estimate, 2013)

January 1, 1994


Canadian dollar , Mexican peso , US dollar

Time zone UTC-3: 30 to UTC-10

The North American Free Trade Agreement ( English North American Free Trade Agreement , NAFTA , French Accord de libre échange nord-américain , Alena ; Spanish Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte , TLCAN ) is an economic agreement between Canada , the United States and Mexico ; they thereby form a free trade area on the North American continent. NAFTA was founded on January 1st, 1994.

NAFTA was questioned in the presidential election campaign in 2008 by future US President Barack Obama and in 2016 by US President Donald Trump . On August 27, 2018, it was announced that the United States and Mexico had reached a new agreement. The negotiations for Canada's accession as a third partner were successfully concluded on September 30, 2018, but the result still required ratification by the respective parliaments to be valid. On November 30, 2018, US President Donald Trump, his outgoing Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the successor agreement to the North American free trade pact NAFTA. The new agreement is called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in English, Acuerdo Estados Unidos-México-Canadá (AEUMC) in Spanish and Accord États-Unis-Mexique-Canada (AÉUMC) in French and entered into force on July 1, 2020 Force.

With the entry into force of the NAFTA trade agreement , numerous tariffs were abolished and many more were temporarily suspended. The agreement emerged from the Canadian-US-American Free Trade Agreement of 1989. It is an intergovernmental contract . In contrast to the European Union , NAFTA does not perform any supranational governmental functions and its provisions do not take precedence over national law.

NAFTA has two subsidiary agreements: the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) for environmental issues and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC) for labor rights.

Forerunner: Canada-US-American Free Trade Agreement

The forerunner of the North American Free Trade Agreement was the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA), which came into force on January 1, 1989 and linked the two economically strongest countries in North America. The formation of the CUSFTA went back to an initiative of the Republican US President Ronald Reagan . Both the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party of Canada viewed the plan of a free trade area between the two countries with a critical eye in advance and after it came into force. Public opinion in Canada was also v. a. mostly negative at the beginning.


NAFTA envisages the abolition of most tariffs between member states within 15 years of their entry into force. Most of the trade between the US and Canada was previously duty-free. The main difference to previous agreements was that measures were also adopted in the trade agreement on other issues (apart from tariffs and quotas).

By 2008, such non-tariff trade barriers should be eliminated. The agreement provides for the opening of various markets (including the banking, energy and transport sectors) of the participating states for companies from the other member states. This also includes the award of public contracts. Likewise z. B. standards for food and product safety lowered, another goal of the agreement was to strengthen the protection of intellectual property and similar . a. in the field of medical patents.

NAFTA also contains rules on investment protection and provides the possibility to initiate investment arbitration proceedings if the profit expectations of companies are reduced by new laws.


country code accession Capital Population
in million
in km²
billion US $
GDP per capita
(US $)
GDP per capita
in PPS 2013
(USA = 100)
United StatesUnited States United States US 1994 Washington, DC 317.2 9,629,091 16,799.7 53.101 100
CanadaCanada Canada CA 1994 Ottawa 35.2 9,984,670 1,825.1 51,990 98
MexicoMexico Mexico MX 1994 Mexico city 120.3 1,972,550 1,258.5 10,630 20th


The consequences are assessed very differently depending on the viewer's political point of view. The volume of Mexican exports rose from $ 51.8 billion in 1994 to $ 166.4 billion in 2000. The country exported more than all other countries on the subcontinent and is now the seventh largest export nation according to the Mexican Ministry of Economic Affairs of the world.

Stephen Gill from York University in Toronto , on the other hand, speaks of the privatization of commercial law and the “juridification of neoliberal dogmas”. In 2014, according to a study by the NGO Public Citizen's Trade Watch , NAFTA proceedings were pending before the arbitration tribunals with claims for damages against governments (especially the Canadian one) amounting to 12.4 billion US dollars. According to the study, states were sentenced to a total of 360 million US dollars in damages. The Canadian CETA chief negotiator attested that the total payments made by Canada amounting to 150 million US dollars “did not have a very negative effect”.

The economic and social consequences of the agreement are assessed differently: The journalist Barbara Eisenmann writes in the Tagesspiegel that Mexico used to be self-sufficient with the staple food corn and is now inundated with subsidized US agricultural products and meat, the price of which is 20 percent below production costs . The expected specialization of Mexican agriculture has not materialized: According to the US trade union confederation, millions of corn farmers have given up, and many landless and unemployed could not be absorbed into the newly emerging supplier industries. Crime increased. Mexico today has to import 60 percent of its wheat and 70 percent of its rice needs. Canada has returned to being an exporter of raw materials and increasingly struggling with environmental problems , while the international oil industry is putting pressure on environmental regulations. Overall, incomes in the member states would stagnate while income inequality rises.

New negotiations in 2018 and 2019

The successor to the United States Mexico Canada Agreement , abbreviated USMCA , is the result of the renegotiations of the NAFTA states (2017-2018). Formal approval was given on September 30, 2018 and October 1. The new agreement was signed on November 30, 2018 by US President Donald Trump, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the 2018 G20 Summit in Buenos Aires. The respective legislators in the three countries still had to ratify the agreement.

For example, it was agreed that America's farmers would be allowed to export more milk and dairy products to Canada. The US government does not impose any import duties on cars from Canada and Mexico. Each of the three countries undertakes to give other parties three months' notice of trade talks with a “non-market economy”. If a country concludes a free trade agreement with China or a similar economy, either of the other two can terminate the trilateral agreement with six months' notice in accordance with Article 32.10 and conclude a bilateral agreement on the same terms. "The clause makes it difficult to sign free trade agreements with China - or at least on terms that the US does not see in its interests," said Scott Kennedy, director of the project on Chinese economics and political economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Negotiations with Canada stalled on August 31, as Trump told Bloomberg News non-publicly that he would unilaterally dictate the terms to Canadians and not give in on anything. A reporter from the Toronto Star who was present saw himself not bound by a law of silence, so Trump's drastic statements against Canada were published on August 30th.

"I can't kill these people ..."

- President Trump, Aug. 30, 2018, on Bloomberg News on the Government of Canada

"We have also been very clear: We will only sign a deal if it is a good deal for Canada."

- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Oshawa , August 31, 2018

In December 2019, Mexico ratified the USMCA. In the United States, the Democrats first gave their green light to the deal in December. In intensive negotiations between the US government and the Democrats as well as Mexico, stricter rules on labor law, including monitoring by independent experts, were previously negotiated, which is intended to limit Mexico's low-wage advantage.

See also


for comprehensive and current literature, e.g. Some also in German, see the GIGA database, below under web links

  • Gerhard Honekamp: Mexico - from imperialist dependence to equality? . In: Geschichte, Erbildung, Politik (GEP), 4, 1993, no. 3, pp. 164–170
  • Daniel Lederman, William F. Maloney, Luis Servén: Deepening NAFTA for Economic Convergence in North America . World Bank , 2003

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. What sounds like Trump now comes from Obama , Die Welt , January 2, 2017
  2. ↑ In detail , Wirtschaftswoche , August 28, 2018
  3. [1] , n-tv , Nov. 30, 2018
  4. ^ Announcement of the US Trade Representative, with a link to the full English text of the agreement
  5. [2]
  6. Canada and NAFTA ( English, French ) In: The Canadian Encyclopedia . Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  7. ^ A b c Lori M. Wallach: Twenty Years of Free Trade in America , Le Monde diplomatique, June 11, 2015
  8. Unrealized, Unforeseen Environmental Results Of NAFTA , National Public Radio, December 8, 2013
  9. Light and shadow after ten years of free trade: NAFTA is helping Mexico less than hoped . ( [accessed February 4, 2018]).
  10. a b NAFTA’s 20-Year Legacy and the Fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership , Public Citizen, February 2014
  11. DIE ZEIT: Issue 43/2014 p. 27, Interview with Steve Verheul, ZEIT ONLINE
  12. Barbara Eisenmann : The network of money. Der Tagesspiegel, December 6, 2014 online
  13. NAFTA deal reached: Canada, US, Mexico reach trade agreement under new name . In: Global News . ( [accessed December 3, 2018]).
  14. n-tv Nachrichten: Successor agreement signed for NAFTA . In: . ( [accessed on December 3, 2018]).
  15. Luiza CH. Savage, Adam Behsudi, Alexander Panetta, Lauren Gardner: Trump's new loyalty test: Don't make trade deal with China
  16. The Star
  17. ^ Nafta Talks Between US and Canada Turn Tense as Deadline Looms , New York Times , August 31, 2018
  18. Mexico ratifies changes to the free trade agreement with Canada and the USA. December 13, 2019, accessed December 14, 2019 .
  19. The best bad contract ever. In: December 11, 2019, accessed December 14, 2019 .
  20. ^ US, Mexico and Canada sign revised trade deal to replace Nafta. In: The Guardian. December 10, 2019, accessed December 14, 2019 .