BOSTON — * While at least 4,000 people demonstrated in Mexico City against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Saturday, Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gotari met with 18 members of the United States Congress to urge them to vote for the agreement.
After the meeting, William Daley, President Clinton's top lobbyist, said Mr. Clinton was putting NAFTA on the top of his agenda. The pact is scheduled for a House vote Nov. 17.
In the coming weeks ``we will see a president committed like you've never seen him committed,'' says Kurt Campbell, the deputy for policy to Mr. Daley.
Dr. Campbell, on leave from Harvard University where he is a professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government, was sent back to Boston last week to garner the support of the local business community.
``All of us with an interest in NAFTA have been slow,'' Campbell says. ``In the next four weeks, we have to have the same kind of commitment [as the opposition].''
Business groups, who are in favor of NAFTA and are critical of the president's low profile on the issue so far, have to remember how difficult it is for a Democratic president to stand up to labor groups and say he is going to fight them, Campbell says.
``This is a tough issue. He [Clinton] doesn't want to destroy the Democratic party,'' he adds.
But the accumulation of difficult foreign policy problems facing the administration makes the passage of NAFTA even more critical. ``Our only chance for victory in [terms of] jobs and foreign policy is NAFTA,'' Campbell says.
Capitol Hill is ``overrun'' with pro-NAFTA lobbyists who are fighting for passage of the agreement, Campbell says, but members of Congress who are still undecided are telling them to stay away.
``They want to hear from the people in their communities,'' he says. ``They want to hear from the salsa maker who has [already] discovered the Mexican market. They want to hear from the shopworkers, the managers, the CEOs - the real-life people.''