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Mexico, EU Agree on Key Points of Free-Trade Pact

Commerce: Treaty calls for Europe to grant duty-free entry to most Mexican products between now and 2003, and for Mexico to open its market to European goods by 2007.


Trade has played a critical role in helping Mexico emerge from the vicious recession of the mid-1990s that followed the peso devaluation of December 1994. That recession cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and provoked a sharp contraction of the domestic economy.

Export-oriented manufacturing businesses, meanwhile, grew quickly, especially in the north of the country. The maquiladoras, or assembly firms, now employ more than 1.1 million people. Export-driven manufacturing has been the backbone of economic growth that will exceed 4% this year even while much of Latin America is stagnant.

Perhaps because of the broadly positive attitude toward the export-related jobs created by NAFTA, the European trade talks generated little public opposition here, and the accord is expected to clear the Mexican Senate with little opposition.

However, some Mexican critics of NAFTA contend that while large industrial companies flourished, many small and medium-size Mexican firms were devastated by U.S. competitors.

Gabriel Szekely, a researcher at the Colegio de Mexico, said the generally pro-labor EU might prove more sensitive than the United States to Mexico's emerging-nation status, and cushion the impact of open competition.



The euro's value fell Wednesday to $1.019 against the dollar, near its record low. C1

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