In the on-line section of El Paso Times in Spanish, your article “EU elogia México por eliminar impuesto a sodas,” (of January 7, 2007) neglected to address the domestic and health related repercussions of President Calderón’s elimination of Mexico’s twenty percent tax on imported soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners. The tax previously had protected local sugar farmers from the importation of cheap corn sweeteners coming from the United States. At the same time, it helped to sustain the competitiveness of local Mexican soda companies. Although Mexico’s critics claim that the tax violated NAFTA provisions, it is important to note that the U.S. is also guilty of protectionist policies in its dealings with Mexico, namely the heavy subsidization of its agricultural products that allow U.S. corn to undersell Mexican corn in Mexico.
The popularity of high fructose corn syrup in America’s soft drink market is due in part to its low prices which ironically come about as a result of U.S. farm subsidies. Therefore, the lower cost of the artificial sweetener benefits the American producers in the same manner that the 20% tax on the importation of artificial products had benefited local Mexican soda companies and sugar farmers. The elimination of this tax by the WTO will now only benefit American companies who capitalize on this unfair disparity by flooding the Mexican market with inexpensive artificially sweetened products.
By allowing local soft drink companies to compete with the larger international firms, the soft drink tax also gave Mexicans the ability to partially avoid the heavy concentrations of high fructose corn syrup, an ingredient which for long has been linked to obesity and diabetes in the U.S. Consequently, the former tax not only aided Mexico in promoting its own economy, but also protected its citizens from health hazards resulting from the consumption of the products. Thus, free trade under NAFTA not only results in greater economic inequality between the two countries, but encourages pernicious health practices as well.