KU Latin American literature and history experts say Congress should pass the North American Free Trade Agreement; otherwise the U.S. would be sending a very negative message to its southern neighbors.
Rejection of the North American Free Trade Agreement will send a negative psychological and political message throughout Mexico and Latin America, Kansas University professors say.
"I think the reason that it makes so much sense, if we pass NAFTA, is that it establishes a policy in dealing with Latin America that is much more rational than what we have had," said George Woodyard, dean of international studies and professor of Spanish and Portuguese.
"For the last several years we've been pushing privatization and competition," said Charles Stansifer, history department chair and professor of Latin American and Mexican history. "So for U.S. to reject free trade would send a very negative message."
NAFTA would bring Mexico into a free-trade area with the United States and Canada in 15 years, eliminating most tariffs and creating a gigantic market from the arctic to the Yucatan.
The House is set to vote on the measure Wednesday.
KU professors said most Mexicans favor the agreement. However, they said some are concerned about a potential loss of cultural identity if it is approved.
"But the exchange, culturally, goes both ways," said Danny Anderson, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese.
"On both sides of the border, people are looking at their negative cultural fantasies of the other side," he said.
Nevertheless, Anderson supports the agreement because it could benefit both sides culturally and economically.
"I think both cultures could benefit from the best of each other" if the agreement is approved, Woodyard said.
"What NAFTA provides for is happening anyway, in a disjointed way," said John Brushwood, professor emeritus of Spanish and Portuguese who specializes in Mexican literature.
"Most of the people I know (in Mexico) who are informed about this favor it," he said. The agreement could help bridge cultural differences, he said.
"If I can get along with individuals who are different from me, then I think nations can get along with other nations," Brushwood said.
Stansifer said "there's no international scale that can measure the amount of effort that the Mexican government has put into NAFTA."
"There definitely will be political consequences throughout Mexico and Latin America if the agreement is rejected."
Stansifer said defeat of the measure would leave Mexico in a better position to negotiate agreements with other trading blocks.
Passing the agreement will lead to more jobs in the United States, the professors said.
"In the long run, Mexico is taking a great risk," Stansifer said.
"The very poor in Mexico -- they're not the industrial workers," Brushwood said. "I think it is absurd not to pass it."