The Texas State Senate News
EL PASO-The Texas Senate's Interim Committee on NAFTA (the North America Free Trade Agreement) met in El Paso today, Thursday, November 13, to discuss the impact of NAFTA on the El Paso area. NAFTA has significantly affected the Texas economy with 80% of all overland trade between Mexico and the United States flowing through Texas. Although Texas' exports to Mexico have risen in the four years since the trade agreement was enacted, the border areas have continued to lose jobs. "It has become obvious that the Texas border has been hit the hardest by NAFTA," said Committee Chair Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, "El Paso has lost nearly 7,000 jobs due to NAFTA-related layoffs. Although NAFTA has been a boon to the rest of Texas, the border has suffered, and it is only fair for Texas and the United States to attempt to resolve these problems."
The committee was welcomed to El Paso by Mayor Carlos Ramirez, who testified that El Paso's greatest need is for the state to put worker retraining on a 'fast track.' Two former garment industry workers' testimony mirrored the mayor's message. Twenty other workers attended the hearing in support of their testimony.
In addition to individual testimony, six panels of local experts and citizens tesitfied on issues relating to: NAFTA, the Workforce and Economic Development; NAFTA and the Infrastucture; NAFTA and the Environment; NAFTA and Affordable Housing; NAFTA, Health & Human Services and Law Enforcement; and NAFTA, Education and Lifelong Learning.
The committee plans to hold more public hearings before publishing its final report in September of 1998, which will make recommendations to the 76th Legislature which convenes in January, 1999.