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November 17, 1993 – NAFTA Passes – Clinton Wins Big – Congress Exhales.

NAFTA - Bill Clinton - 1993
Bill Clinton and the NAFTA vote. Pulling rabbits out of hats.

NPR – NAFTA Vote and reactions – November 17, 1993 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

On November 17, 1993, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution establishing the North American Free Trade Agreement, normally referred to as NAFTA, a trade treaty between the United States, Canada and Mexico that has generated bitter political debate ever since. The agreement became effective as of January 1, 1994.

The trade treaty replaced a previous trade agreement between the US and Canada called the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (effective January 1, 1988), and serves to reduce or eliminate barriers to trade between the US and its neighbors, creating a free trade bloc in North America similar to the European Union on the other side of the Atlantic. NAFTA has subsidiary agreements addressing the environment and labor relations among the signatory countries.

Although the measure was passed under Democratic President Bill Clinton, the House vote of 234 for and 200 against consisted of 132 Republicans in support and only 102 Democrats, making the agreement one more strongly Republican than Democrat. The Senate passed NAFTA with 34 Republican votes and 27 Democratic votes, mirroring Republican support of the House of Representatives. In spite of the true nature of the origins of the agreement, Republicans have frequently bashed the pact for political advantage, claiming the agreement has cost American jobs and resulted in US manufacturers moving to Canada and Mexico.

The main basis of NAFTA was the elimination of tariffs on goods exported between member countries. The US and Canada had already minimal tariffs, while the tariffs between the US and Mexico are gradually being eliminated over the years through provisions of NAFTA, with a few minor exceptions. Commerce across borders is also addressed, with freer movement of truck, train, and pipeline commodities across borders without undue delays and tariffs.

Here is the vote and the reactions as they were heard on November 17, 1993 via National Public Radio and KCRW.

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