Wal-Mart, Teotihuacán, and the dark side of NAFTA

The NYT exposé published yesterday about Wal-Mart in Mexico includes references to complaints by locals and others that the presence of a Wal-Mart store in the Teotihuacán archeological zone is an affront to Mexican culture.

It is particularly painful to read that some archeologists employed by INAH (Archeological Institute) agreed, in exchange for “donations,” to wave the strict requirement for an archeological survey prior to construction in an archeological zone.

When I lived in Mexico City in the 1970s I had occasion to be in contact with INAH on account of my participation in a private, archeological research group led by Hugh Harleston, Jr. We certainly needed permission to carry out a survey of a tunnel some 3 meters below the Pyramid of the Sun. And we needed permission to camp overnight on the pyramid on December 31, 1979 (and we did pitch our tents on one of the lower levels; but I now don’t recall the research issue that might have justified such an adventure).

I don’t think that it crossed our minds to bribe the INAH officials for permissions of any kind. They were the guardians of past and future knowledge.

An observation that was not expressed in the Times article is that the presence of Wal-Mart in Teotihuacán is a collateral cost of NAFTA.

Click here to read a list of “disappointments,” from the U.S. and Mexican perspectives, relating to the first 20 years of NAFTA. One of these disappointments is the defacement of cultural environments by the intrusion of global business.

This 7-page table is part of our discussion of the positive and negative aspects of NAFTA, as published in our report Market Note 151: “NAFTA @ 20: Regional competitor or springboard to TPP?”

The 20th anniversary of the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took place during an intense period of expectation regarding the policy intentions of the incoming government of President Enrique Paña Nieto. The NAFTA story, as narrated in several conferences, was about its success. Some speakers, such as Mexican Amb. Arturo Sarukhán, said that the experience of NAFTA would contribute to the formation of a Trans-Pacific Partnership. The present report comments on the glass half empty. Table 1 itemizes disappointments with the results of NAFTA.

Read The Bribery Aisle: How Wal-Mart Got Its Way in Mexico, as printed in The NYT.


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Mexico Energy Intelligence

Baker & Associates offers niche-market business and policy intelligence related to Mexico's oil and gas, power and chemical industries. Over 1,000 reports have been issued in the last 20 years. Subject matter expert and publisher George Baker, who directs the firm, has carried out consulting assignments starting in the late 1970s at the height of the Oil Boom in Mexico. He brings bilingual and bicultural skill-sets to understanding and responding to challenges of business and public policy, coupled with a deep familiarity with the history and idiosyncrasies of the Mexican operating environment.