The latest victim in a decades-old international trade war is that crimson peace offering gifted to a teacher and the quintessential ingredient of the most American of pies: the apple.
At the end of October, on a Monday, a union of Mexican farmworker activists called El Barzón rode horses and tractors onto the international bridge that joins El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez. Dressed in jeans and cowboy hats, the farmers threatened to block traffic until the Mexican government spoke with them.
“The countryside is in agony,” one sign read.
The farmers protested many things, like the murder of a former leader (assassinated by the government, they claim), as well as high energy prices. At the heart of their anger was the North American Free Trade Agreement, the 1994 pact that was supposed to boost both the U.S. and Mexican economies. It has done that—Ford recently announced it would invest $2.5 billion in a Mexican car plant; and in the first 10 years of NAFTA, U.S. merchandise imports to Mexico increased 226 percent. But what it has also done is destroy industries and displace millions of jobs on boths sides of the border.
As the world’s economy globalizes, and as countries sign trade agreements (like the new Trans-Pacific Partnership), nations increasingly compete for each other’s consumers. The winners stand to grow their market and make a lot of money. The losers are left with dead industries. Typically, that means people move to new cities to find work, and sometimes they move to new countries. The apple farmers of Chihuahua are beginning to understand this.