Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, and NAFTA

This column by Ralph Nader caught my eye when I glanced at the newspaper tonight. Despite all of the on-line reading I do, I still get one local newspaper in print. The Journal Inquirer is the kind of paper that usually has the photograph of a house fire on the front page and a lengthy list of police blotter blurbs on the inside. However, dig deep enough and you will see some pretty good syndicated columns on the editorial page. Nader’s column was an interesting read.

He articulates some good points about Ross Perot and the current situation with General Motors. Perot was an Independent with vision who had some pretty good ideas. He grew some impressive businesses and probably deserves more respect for his impact on our economy. This post isn’t really about Perot. I agree with much of what Nader says about the apathy at General Motors. He points out that Perot was right about a lot of things when he served on GM’s board and that no one listened to him.

Nader goes on to assail NAFTA and again, I only agree with part of what he says. I favor free trade. After all, Horst Engineering has a maquiladora in Sonora, Mexico. However, we are in a position to grow our business in both the United States and Mexico. In a global economy, when you are a small family business, you do what you have to do to survive and thrive. Nader assails NAFTA and blames some of our countries economic ills on the agreement. He is wrong to lump all maquiladoras into one basket. Our plant is high tech. The employees at our operation and all of the peer operations who work with the companies supported by our partners are treated well. The working environment is on par with the best factories in the US and Europe. There are lousy factories with poor conditions in all countries, including China, Mexico, and the United States. All of the plants I have visited in Mexico over the past five years were top notch.

Yes, NAFTA has benefited many large businesses on both sides of the border and it has probably cost many manufacturing jobs in the US. Still, Mexico is a neighbor and a major trading partner. Horst Engineering’s expansion in Mexico is multi-faceted. Global growth is a key for any business, especially a  manufacturing business. Nader should reconsider his position in light of the fact that many small and mid-sized businesses have few choices. To compete, you have to innovate, and today that means global scope. Whether the industry is aerospace, medical, industrial, or automotive; you have to look at the whole world as your market.

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