RealTime IT News

NAFTA Heads to the Net

With the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, traditional businesses quickly took advantage of trade opportunities, especially within Mexico. Now the online world is looking to accelerate the Internet trade between the US and Mexico.

A number of US companies have been selected by the U.S. - Mexico Chamber of Commerce, including Portland-based GeoTrust, who will participate in the Wiring the Border project scheduled to begin in the spring of 2001.

GeoTrust will provide identity services to a virtual network of 400 small-to-medium sized businesses in 10 states along the U.S. - Mexico border, to help foster cross-border Internet trade and increase revenues.

"We are looking at a breakthrough in how business is being done in Mexico," said Al Zapanta, president of the U.S. - Mexico Chamber of Commerce. "From San Diego and Tijuana to Brownsville and Matamoros - this initiative will significantly cut down the time it takes to complete a cross-border business transaction. I think we will have an acceleration of trade not seen since NAFTA was signed."

Some critics, however, fear that initiatives such as the Wiring the Border project divert attention and resources away from serious public health affairs in the border regions.

"It's an incredible irony that they are willing to pour money into making sure that there are secure Internet connections between points North and South of the border, yet millions of people living on the border, both in the US and in Mexico, have no running water, no electricity, and no access to sewer lines," says Patrick Woodall, Director of Research at Public Citizen Global Trade Watch.

GeoTrust president Jothy Rosenberg responded to the concerns by noting that the agreement will actually benefit Mexican businesses and those working in the region.

"We're going to enable Mexican businesses to be noticed, to be trusted, to do business across the border, which is going to allow them to grow and thrive, and they will employ more people."

Woodall, however, contends that this is merely another example of one of the major problems with NAFTA.

"This demonstrates clearly the import and the focus of NAFTA: to put commerce before people at all costs. While there are people living in the border that are subject to extremely high rates of public health disasters... the business community focuses on e-business," says the Research Director.

Despite the controversy behind the project, Rosenberg is excited about the prospect this project holds for GeoTrust, who works on establishing security verification over the net.