The Opinion page article ``Why Clinton Must Stump for NAFTA,'' Sept. 22, argues that President Clinton must fight hard for the North American Free Trade Agreement in order to build US international leadership. This couldn't be more wrong. The most fundamental basis for US international leadership is the strength of the United States economy. And that's exactly why we must defeat NAFTA.
Supporters for NAFTA argue that it provides market access to US manufacturers, but the access that interests US corporations is access to Mexico's huge labor market. NAFTA will permit US multinationals to relocate manufacturing operations to Mexico to take advantage of lower wages and lax environmental enforcement.
The Mexican market for US-made consumer goods is insignificant. The vast majority of people in Mexico live at a subsistence level. How will they buy TV sets without electricity? Let's get real about NAFTA:
* NAFTA would put Americans out of work. Ohio has already lost over 100,000 jobs to the border maquiladora industries. Average wages in manufacturing (plus benefits) in Mexico are only 15 percent of average wages in the US.
* NAFTA would open all of Mexico to job transplants. The government of the State of Yucatan has already placed ads in the US boasting that companies can save $15,000 per employee annually by relocating.
* Mexico's program for development is based on exploiting workers. The buying power of the minimum wage dropped 67 percent between 1976 and 1992. Health and safety safeguards are almost unknown. Meanwhile, the richest 30 families in Mexico now control over 60 percent of Mexico's GDP.
* Corporate interests and the government of Mexico have no intention of allowing wages in Mexico to rise with productivity. That's why they teamed up to get protection for workers' rights out of the Labor Side Agreements. Nothing in NAFTA will stop the government-sponsored harassment and intimidation of independent unions.
* The majority of Mexicans don't make enough money to buy US goods. As an economist told me when I visited Mexico last spring, 85 percent of Mexicans do not make enough to buy imported goods.
We need an agreement that is fair, one that will generate economic growth throughout North America. This NAFTA exploits the Mexican workers and hurts our working families. It will erode our economic leadership, not build it. Marcy Kaptur, Washington, Representative (D) of Ohio NAFTA Threatens Jobs: Ours and Theirs
The front-page article ``NAFTA Dispute Divides Ranks of Middle Class,'' Sept. 20, indirectly points out a major problem with NAFTA and the debate about it: No one is considering its effects on the poor.
NAFTA as economic policy will be bad social policy; it will cause an erosion of the job base for the working class. This will serve to further isolate the poor and could have indirect effects on everyone. Increased levels of poverty and social isolation correlate to increase in many social problems - which hurt us all. Economic policy should be designed to improve job opportunities for the lower end of our class continuum. The side effects will be good for all of us. Bud Reiter-Lavery, Durham, N.C. NAFTA Threatens Jobs: Ours and Theirs
The author of the Opinion page article, ``NAFTA: A Bargain For US and Mexico,'' Sept. 13, is obviously in favor of NAFTA. But in the first paragraph he states that ``Without it, there will be no big pressure on Mexican entrepreneurs to quickly raise workers' salaries.'' Then in third paragraph he says, regarding NAFTA, ``Without these new rules, when it comes to enticing industry, it would not be possible to obtain the advantages of low wages.'' Come now, run that by me again. John R. Bacon, Bethlehem, Pa.