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Grades 7-8 | Argumentative | Source-Based

Source Lexile®: 1060L-1310L

Learning Standards





Prompt: Research the history of NAFTA and the benefits and drawbacks of this agreement. First, watch an informative video (“A Brief History of NAFTA”). Then, read two primary sources on the topic (“NAFTA's True Importance” and “White House Officials Say an Order to Withdraw from NAFTA Is in Its Final Stages”). After reading these sources, write an essay that makes a claim about whether or not the United States should be a part of NAFTA. Be sure to include evidence from all three sources to support your argument and acknowledge counterclaims to your position.


Source 1

A Brief History of NAFTA (Secondary Source)


"A brief history of NAFTA." YouTube. YouTube, 20 Mar. 2017. Web. 16 June 2017.


Source 2

NAFTA's True Importance (Primary Source)


The following article is a primary source from “The New York Times.” The article was written in 1993. At the time, NAFTA was a new international trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The acronym “NAFTA” stands for North American Free Trade Agreement.


  1. There's more at stake than a simple trade pact when the House votes on the North American Free Trade Agreement this Wednesday. For President Clinton, the vote will test his, and the Democratic Party's, ability to shape major legislation. For the U.S., the vote will test its longstanding commitment to open trade -- the primary locomotive of world growth for a half-century.

  2. Republican and Democratic Administrations alike have urged Latin and South Americans to adopt market reforms and open their borders to U.S. exports. If the U.S. now rejects NAFTA because it fears competition from an economy one-twentieth its size, it will look like the hemisphere's biggest hypocrite.

  3. The treaty would gradually phase out tariffs between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., creating a large open regional market. It would provide tight legal protection to foreign investors. The administration says NAFTA will produce an economic renaissance; critics say NAFTA will destroy jobs, cut wages, and damage the environment. The truth is, by comparison, prosaic.

  4. Will NAFTA create or destroy jobs? Neither. Trade affects where in the U.S. people work, but not how many people work. Under NAFTA, Mexico will export more clothes, vegetables, and brooms to the U.S. The U.S. will export more automobiles, computers, and computer software to Mexico.

  5. Employment will rise in some industries and fall in others, but is likely to change little overall. That is because it depends less on trade than on the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve Board. If, contrary to predictions, NAFTA leads to a flood of Mexican imports and higher unemployment, the Fed can pump more money into the economy and push employment toward its original level.

  6. Will NAFTA suck American industry south of the border to take advantage of low Mexican wages? Critics raise the specter of U.S. firms closing factories and fleeing to Mexico. Some companies will relocate, but the numbers won't be large. Mexico might attract about $15 billion in extra investment. But that's a small fraction of the $500 billion invested in plant and equipment every year in the U.S.

  7. Mexican wages are low because the Mexican economy isn't very productive. They are not a huge draw for U.S. companies and NAFTA does not make producing in Mexico any cheaper.

  8. Are Mexicans too poor to buy U.S. goods? Ross Perot's demeaning sound bite is belied by the facts. Mexico is the third-largest buyer of U.S. exports and currently buys more goods from the U.S. than the U.S. buys from it. NAFTA would lower Mexican tariffs by a lot and U.S. tariffs, because they are already low, only a little. That means the price of U.S. goods in Mexico will fall enough to make U.S. exports more affordable to Mexicans.

  9. Will wages of low-paid workers rise or fall? Many U.S. workers fear their wages (after accounting for inflation) will fall because they have done so for the better part of two decades. But this worry is misdirected. Trade explains only a tiny part of the trend and NAFTA won't make matters any worse.

  10. Some U.S. companies will cut back employment as they relocate; and some Mexican exports to the U.S. will increase. On both scores, U.S. employers will cut wages to stay competitive. But this is only half the story. NAFTA will raise U.S. exports, and the U.S. industries that are likely to expand hire about as many low-paid workers as the U.S. industries that are expected to shrink. NAFTA's impact on wages will be minimal.

  11. Will NAFTA harm the environment? Most major environmental groups in the U.S. support NAFTA. And for good reason. It explicitly protects U.S. environmental regulations and builds in a mechanism for sanctions if Mexico fails to enforce its own environmental laws, which are already strict. Critics charge that the agreement would invite U.S. companies to flee south to evade tough U.S. enforcement; but few U.S. companies spend as much as one percent of costs on compliance -- which is too small an expense to justify relocating in Mexico.

  12. The case against NAFTA isn't sound. But proponents should not dismiss the pain of those Americans -- probably a few hundred thousand over a decade -- who will be laid off. That amount of fluctuation happens month by month in a 120 million-member labor force. But to the victims, the problem is severe. The answer isn't to throw the entire economy into a protectionist straitjacket, but to provide ample retraining and education.

  13. After weighing the economic pros and cons, Nafta comes out slightly ahead. But the other stakes -- the vitality of the Clinton Presidency and the future shape of the U.S. relationship with Mexico and the rest of Latin and South America -- loom even more important. They are the reasons that Democrats, in the party of Bill Clinton, and Republicans, in the historic party of free trade, ought to vote yes.





  • reform (n.) - the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, or unsatisfactory

  • hypocrite (n.) - a person who pretends to have morals that they do not possess

  • tariff (n.) - duties or customs imposed by government on imports and exports

  • renaissance (n.) - time/era of great revival of art; rebirth

  • specter (n.) - object or source of terror or dread

  • sanctions (n. ) - authoritative permission or approval for action; (v.) - to ratify or confirm

"NAFTA's True Importance." The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Nov. 1993. Web. 16 June 2017.





Source 3

White House Officials Say an Order to Withdraw from NAFTA Is in Its Final Stages (Primary Source)


This source is part of an article that was published in April of 2017 in “The Week” magazine. It outlines a potential decision by the White House to withdraw from NAFTA.




  1. The White House is reportedly in the late stages of finalizing an order that would withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA. President Trump vowed to renegotiate the 1994 trade deal on the campaign trail, arguing that NAFTA is "very, very bad for our country," a "job killer," and "the single worst trade deal ever." NAFTA, which was originally signed by President Bill Clinton, allows for the free flow of goods and services between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico without tariffs.

  2. Based on information from two White House insiders, Politico writes that "the approach appears designed to extract better terms with Canada and Mexico." Politico adds: "But once Trump sets the withdrawal process in motion, the prospects for the U.S. pulling out of one of the largest trade deals on the globe become very real."

  3. The draft was reportedly authored by Trump's National Trade Council head, Peter Navarro, who worked with White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon.





  • renegotiate (v.) - to reexamine

"White House Officials Say an Order to Withdraw from NAFTA Is in Its Final Stages." The Week - All You Need to Know about Everything That Matters. N.p., 26 Apr. 2017. Web. 16 June 2017.










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