July 31, 1998
By Robert Quintana
Has NAFTA had a positive impact on San Diego? Ernie Grijalva, Legal Counsel policy advisor for the Greater Chamber of Commerce, seems to think so and he has serious doubts for those who don't agree with him. Citing an article by an MSNBC writer who is critical of NAFTA's effect on the environment, Grijalva calls the female author `intellectually challenged.' "Usually when someone attacks NAFTA, they basically take pot shots at everything that's wrong with Mexico. Here this author talks about the dire pollution problems in Mexico City to criticize NAFTA," he said.
Grijalva was one of two speakers at the Sister City's Strategic Connections meeting in Mission Valley on Wednesday and responded to a host of criticisms of NAFTA. Ross Perot, for example, predicted that the new economic policy would cause havoc, "sucking" American jobs to Mexico and at the same time causing unprecedented flows of undocumented workers to the US. "Anyone who thinks that NAFTA is the cause of illegal immigration, I'd ask them to take a poll of one thousand border patrol agents and ask them why Mexicans come here. Forget about welfare or any government assistance, it's the jobs," he said. "The problem is that American companies want them here and they prove this by continuing to hire them."
In an official statement in 1997 Grijalva and the San Diego Greater Chamber of Commerce outlined NAFTA's positive impact on the economy:
In 1993, San Diego's unemployment rate reached 8.7%. Today it is half of that and San Diego is experiencing a significant labor shortage for high paying high tech jobs.
Over 20,000 new jobs have been created in San Diego in the last three years solely due to our increased trade with Mexico. (San Diego manufactured exports to Mexico increased by 1.33 billion from January 1, 1994 to December 31, 1996. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that it takes a minimum of 15,000 jobs to create $1 billion of production.
Since NAFTA was enacted, San Diego exports to Mexico have increase by 50%. Exports to Canada have increased by nearly 30%.
In a recent poll of San Diego County Businesses (conducted by the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce), 67% of the respondents indicated that NAFTA had a positive impact on their business.
Rudy Fernandez, the Secretary of Industry and Commerce of California, also touted NAFTA's benefit to the economy and talked about the possibilities for the future. "Right now we are trying to match prospective suppliers of maquiladores with the manufacturers themselves we feel that there is tremendous opportunity for California businesses."
Note: The event was sponsored by the San Diego-Tijuana Sister Cities Society, an organization devoted to promoting cross-border business connections all over the world. For more information on business opportunities in Mexico log on to http://www.ca.gov