The report from the Monongahela River Valley on the fears of retired steelworkers ("A magical misery tour with NAFTA's Steel-Belt foes," Top of the News, Sept. 13) tells half the story here. True, the global economy buried much of this region's steel industry. But the global economy also holds the keys to the region's continued recovery. Pennsylvania exports to Mexico have grown dramatically during the past few years.
Coincidentally, on the day your article hit the newsstands, representatives of western Pennsylvania's Carnegie Mellon University were meeting with President Carlos Salinas de Gortari and industry leaders in Mexico to launch a joint institute, in part to further business opportunities among our communities. Hunkering down in the Mon Valley (or Boston or Los Angeles) won't build companies and jobs. Aggressive efforts by American companies in growing markets such as Mexico will.
Graduate School of
Carnegie Mellon University
Ten years ago, I was a metallurgist for a steel mill currently being torn down in the Monongahela River Valley. In my five years there, no major capital improvements were made. The plant was closed in the mid-'80s because it was uncompetitive.
I am now employed by a steel mill that produces the same product line. This company continually makes capital improvements to ensure enhanced quality and productivity. During the recent slump in the domestic steel industry, our company remained busy and profitable in part because of our business with Mexico.
During the last decade, "Japan-bashing" provided an excuse for companies and unions to remain uncompetitive. Now it's NAFTA. When management and employees work together to meet benchmarks for world-class cost and quality, NAFTA becomes an opportunity rather than a threat.
Ray Leasure Jr.
Fort Smith, Ark.
Robert Kuttner's commentary "Seeing through NAFTA's new clothes" (Economic Viewpoint, Sept. 20) raises important considerations but must be placed in a larger context.
NAFTA is a major foreign policy decision. Policies considered U.S. domestic issues will become major factors in turbulent Mexican politics. The two countries don't share the historical motivation and shared experiences that allowed Europeans to form the Common Market.
Before NAFTA is signed, there should be a full-scale foreign policy debate in Congress. After the treaty is signed, it will be too late.