MEXICO CITY—Mexicans are anxious about the future of the North American Free Trade Act, and how the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump may seek to change or even withdraw from the agreement.
Mexican officials are now speaking with Asian nations about how trade between Mexico and Asia might change in a post-NAFTA era.
Mexican analysts expressed concern that new investment may slow down due to uncertainty about the agreement. “It’s the chilling effect on investment,” said Federico Estévez, a political scientist at Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico, a leading Mexican university. “We’ve basically turned into an industrial economy on the basis of NAFTA.”
Paulino Agustín and Sinael Altamirano prepare ground in the mountains of Chiapas state, a prime coffee growing region in Mexico. They are digging before planting coffee trees which typically don't produce coffee beans for three years after planting. (Lorne Matalon)
CACAHOATAN, Chiapas — The lives of thousands of small-scale coffee growers in Latin America and Mexico are better off because of fair trade. But the system is fraying at the seams in one of the world’s most important coffee-growing regions because of a perfect storm defined by low prices, a damaging fungus and unscrupulous middlemen.
Central America and southern Mexico are major parts of the fair trade coffee mosaic and 80 percent of the world’s fair trade coffee comes from Latin America.
“They pay well,” said coffee grower Pedro Pacheco in Spanish in Chajul, Guatemala referring to the foreigners who buy his fair trade coffee beans. He is a member of a fair trade coffee co-op in which coffee growers sell their beans together sharing risk and reward. He said his co-op works well because its foreign buyers pay a fair price that is locked in and doesn’t change even if market conditions do.
César Ulises Roblero (R) and Carlos Galves Hernandez (L) sell beans they acquire from growers from this small processing plant near the Tacaná volcano, a source of rich soil that imparts a distinct aromatic taste to coffee produced near here. (photo: Lorne Matalon)
A tugboat advances toward the Miraflores Locks near the Panama Canal’s Pacific entrance. A vessel that can pass through the locks is classified as a Panamax, for the maximum size that can fir though the canal’s existing locks. (Lorne Matalon)
“Time now is money, and a lot of money,” said Panama Canal tug captain Luis Estribi as sunlight danced on the water near the Panama Canal’s Pacific entrance at Ciudad de Panamá.
Estribi was guiding a vessel from China, the Tai Prosperity, through the canal’s Pedro Miguel locks to the Port of New Orleans. The Tai Prosperity, a carrier of bulk commodities such as grain, is classified as a Panamax ship.
Panamax is a worldwide maritime shipping measurement that refers to the maximum-sized vessel that can pass through this canal.
But today, Panamax is passé. Now, it’s all about post-Panamax, vessels that can carry up to three times the cargo as Panamax vessels. But post-Panamax vessels are too wide for the existing Panama Canal.