Trade and migration

Those who would accuse immigrants of disregard for the law should remember the role that U.S. policy plays in fueling migration. The following is excerpted from “Justice in a Land of Plenty,” an MCC Washington Office resource on trade. Download the full resource here.

Dan Wiens/MCC

Trade policies have had a devastating impact on families. Many farmers in the global South have been forced to abandon their livelihoods in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

An estimated 1.5 million Mexican farmers lost their livelihoods after the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. U.S. corn exports to Mexico have more than tripled since NAFTA took effect, undercutting local production. At the same time, the United States has tightened its immigration laws, even as its trade policies have pushed people out of their homes.

The story of Haiti is a case in point. Until the mid-1980s Haiti was a self-sufficient rice-producing country. Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, due to its accumulated debt and conditions for future loans, Haiti was forced to radically change its economic system.

Haiti’s trade protections were dismantled, making it the most economically liberal country in the Caribbean. This meant Haiti was vulnerable to cheap imports and dependent on external sources of production.

By the early 1990s rice imports from the United States outpaced local production. Poor Haitian farmers were forced to compete for market share with subsidized rice from the United States. Haiti’s agricultural industry ended up in shambles and poor Haitian farmers were forced to abandon their homes.

The story of Haiti is a case in point. Until the mid-1980s Haiti was a self-sufficient rice-producing country. Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, due to its accumulated debt and conditions for future loans, Haiti was forced to radically change its economic system.

Haiti’s trade protections were dismantled, making it the most economically liberal country in the Caribbean. This meant Haiti was vulnerable to cheap imports and dependent on external sources of production.

By the early 1990s rice imports from the United States outpaced local production. Poor Haitian farmers were forced to compete for market share with subsidized rice from the United States. Haiti’s agricultural industry ended up in shambles and poor Haitian farmers were forced to abandon their homes.

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