From the CIAO Atlas Map of North America 

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Constructing NAFTA: Myth, Representation and the Discursive Construction of US Foreign Policy

Amy Skonieczny

San Francisco State University

International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA
March 14-18, 2000


The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in November 1993 signified the acceptance of Mexico as an equal trading partner with the United States and Canada. However, accepting Mexico as an equal partner challenged a deeply ingrained US image of Mexico as inferior, child-like, dependent and suspicious. How was it possible for the US public and its congressional representatives to accept equal economic integration with a country that embodied such a negative image? Addressing this dilemma through a cognitive-semantic approach, this article argues that the existing image of Mexico remained intact and the passage of NAFTA resulted from a dominant NAFTA discourse that re-constituted the US self-image through American myths thereby allowing the simultaneous acceptance of Mexico as inferior and as an equal trading partner. American myths and other representational elements constructed NAFTA for the American public and created a policy success for President Clinton. This article relies on an empirical investigation of newspaper advertisements to demonstrate how myths contributed to the discursive construction of NAFTA.

The successful passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by the US congress in November 1993 signified the acceptance of Mexico as an equal economic partner with the United States and Canada. For the first time in history, a developing nation successfully established itself in a regional trade bloc with two powerful, wealthy and developed nations. However, accepting Mexico as a country worthy of equal partnership and as an acceptable risk for economic integration, challenged the traditional US image of Mexico, and Latin America in general, as inferior, child-like, dependent and suspicious (Johnson, 1993; Cottam, M., 1994).

The Mexican NAFTA lobby quickly realized this negative image while promoting NAFTA in the United States. It found Mexico depicted as a "low wage, socially troubled, environmentally polluted country that exports illegal aliens to the United States" (Lewis and Ebrahim, 1993). A Gallup Poll conducted at the end of June 1993, confirmed that US citizens did not think of Mexico favorably. When asked their overall opinion of Germany, Japan and Mexico, 63 percent rated Germany as favorable, 48 percent rated Japan as favorable and only 43 percent rated Mexico as favorable. In addition, 49 percent of the public rated Mexico as unfavorable compared to 46 percent for Japan in that category despite the fact that 68 percent felt that Japan had an unfair trade policy with the United States (Moore, 1993).

Although NAFTA as a policy challenged these images, changing an ingrained image is no small task. According to Martha Cottam (1994), the image the US holds of Latin America as a dependent has withstood the transition from the cold war to the post-war period demonstrating the resilience of images to withstand major systemic change. She contends that a shift in image comes only when decision-makers recognize a mismatch between the images they hold of a country and their ability to achieve foreign policy goals.

Conventional foreign policy approaches have analyzed NAFTA in numerous ways but are subsequently unable to explain its passage in Congress considering Mexico's negative image. Depending on the approach, a conventional explanation and analysis of NAFTA might attempt to explain why NAFTA was an important part of global economic policy for the US, or argue that the post-Cold War world was rapidly dividing into regional trade blocs and to remain competitive necessitated a policy like NAFTA. Conventional approaches to foreign policy analysis have examined the decision-making process in policy-making, discussing the NAFTA negotiations or the role of money in the passage of NAFTA and even the significance of personalities such as billionaire Ross Perot, Mexican President Carlos Salinas and President Clinton on NAFTA's success. A rational choice approach to NAFTA might view the trade accord as a game among three nations each seeking to maximize the highest expected gains.

All of these approaches fail to predict or examine why NAFTA became such a controversial US domestic debate. If rational choices were made regarding NAFTA and if the US stood to maximize economic gain, why did the US debate over NAFTA become so irrational with the opposing sides competing to define the meaning of NAFTA not as a trade accord, but as a symbol of either US leadership and hope for the future or as a giant sucking sound of job loss and environmental devastation. NAFTA became a symbol of contested US identity and understanding NAFTA's passage in the US requires an examination of the politics of language and symbolism rather than the politics of trade. Prior to NAFTA, trade was not the center of controversial debates in the US; it drew marginal interest from elites at best. Yet in the fall of 1993, NAFTA upstaged health care to catch the attention of the US public. It changed the politics of trade and laid the groundwork for future debates.

The US public debate over the passage of NAFTA provides an avenue into the tension between the established Mexican image and the paradoxical success of NAFTA. Did the passage of NAFTA signify a change in the image of Mexico held by the US? If this resilient image did not change, how was NAFTA accepted and passed by congressional representatives? This article examines the construction of a NAFTA discourse; one that re-established the US self-image using American myths, and made possible the consideration and passage of the agreement despite the existing negative image. The passage of NAFTA resulted not from rational decisions by policy-makers or a change in Mexico's image, but from a public discourse that socially constructed NAFTA as an extension of the American Dream and as a tool of US leadership. The NAFTA discourse consisted of two opposing possibilities: one that re-cast American national identity as positive, strong, hopeful and economically prosperous, and one that relied on the negative Mexican image to call for a protection of American identity from corruption of outside forces. This debate was a battle of contrasting American myths and cultural symbols that resulted in a dominant NAFTA discourse that defined the political language of trade and the simultaneous acceptance of Mexico as an equal economic partner and as a dependent other. Contributing to an established literature on the role of discourse in policy construction, this article offers an extension of the substantial body of research conducted on NAFTA that currently fails to examine how discourse and representation enabled its passage in the US.


Situating NAFT

Understanding the controversy over NAFTA depends on revisiting the political context of the time that the NAFTA agreement entered the public arena primarily during the end of August through the end of November 1993. At this time, the political climate was intense, with NAFTA making headlines on almost a daily basis. President Clinton was at the center of this debate particularly because NAFTA was billed as his first test in pushing a foreign policy initiative through congress. This proved a difficult task given that NAFTA was a republican initiative left over from the Bush administration, and organized labor, a stronghold of support during Clinton's 1992 election campaign, was adamantly opposed.

Additionally, Clinton had not been fully supportive of NAFTA during his campaign for the presidency. To appeal to labor and others concerned about the trade accord, he refused to sign the treaty without including side agreements on labor and the environment (Lewis and Ebrahim, 1993). On the campaign trail in 1992, he had publicly stated:

From everything we read, the treaty [NAFTA] has a whole lot of things in it for people who want to invest money and nothing for labor practices nor for the environment. It looks like they're [the Bush Administration] going to take a dive and just go for the money and it's wrong (Brownstein, 1992:A1).

Given Clinton's relatively weak position on NAFTA during his presidential campaign, it was no surprise that many questioned his ability to commit to NAFTA and take the necessary steps to garner faltering congressional support. The NAFTA opposition recognized Clinton's initial weakness and took advantage early on by initiating a public campaign against NAFTA as early as February 1993. Ross Perot, who became the most visible leader of the opposition, aired a paid infomercial against NAFTA in May, urging viewers to write and call their congressional representatives. An organized postcard campaign against NAFTA followed and by the summer, mail in most congressional offices was running 20-1 against the trade accord (Mayer, 1998).

In August of 1993, a mere three months before the House of Representatives vote, NAFTA appeared an unlikely possibility. Representative David Bonior (D-Michigan) publicly declared that "up to two-thirds to maybe 75 percent of the Democratic caucus in the House is opposed to it [NAFTA]" ("NAFTA Has Little Support," 1993:A9). Newspaper reports predominantly described NAFTA's dismal reception in the US. A Washington Post reporter characterized the accord "as dull as dishwater for most Americans, those few who have even heard of it" (Devroy, 1993:A12). Additionally, newspaper headlines early on in the campaign made declarations such as "Campaign to Sell Free Trade Pact Gets Off to Limp Start" (Broder and Gerstenzang, 1993:A11) and "Perot Takes Early Lead in Race on Trade Pact" (Devroy, 1993:A12). By September, a Wall Street Journal poll found that only 25 percent of the US public were in support of NAFTA, the lowest level of approval registered at any time throughout the year, and 74 percent believed that US manufacturing jobs would move to Mexico if NAFTA passed (Seib, 1993). This lukewarm reception of NAFTA by the US public and the outright opposition to the agreement by congressional democrats, left the Clinton administration with an unanticipated disadvantage with only a few months left until the NAFTA vote.

Senator Bill Bradley urged the Clinton Administration and the business community to launch a public campaign for NAFTA. He realized that they were letting the opponents frame the public debate and insisted that the business community hire a campaign strategist to develop and publicly test positive messages for NAFTA. He warned the NAFTA proponents, "This isn't going to be trade politics as usual. You need to think of this as an election" (Mayer, 1998:240). In August, the Business Roundtable was convinced and launched a $5 million advertising campaign to improve public opinion on NAFTA. The public debate on NAFTA now entered the fall with supporters and opponents fully focused on their respective campaigns.

Yet the opposition clearly had succeeded in defining the major issues of the public debate: jobs, lower wages and environmental degradation. The September Wall Street Journal poll found that most Americans were more inclined to believe negative predictions about NAFTA's consequences than positive ones. For example, 54 percent of Americans agreed that wages would have to fall to compete with Mexico and 55 percent also agreed that only US corporations would benefit from NAFTA. Additionally, 69 percent believed that Mexico could not be trusted to follow side agreements on labor and the environment (Seib, 1993). Considering the political climate encompassing NAFTA in August, September and October, the passage of NAFTA in the House of Representatives by 34 votes one month later on November 17 surprised many congressional leaders, labor organizers and citizens of the United States who had predicted its defeat both publicly and in political circles (Cloud, 1993). With that obstacle hurdled, NAFTA easily passed the Senate on November 24, and was signed by President Clinton for implementation on January 1, 1994. How did supporters of NAFTA succeed in re-framing the debate?

This article argues that one key element in NAFTA's victory was the re-establishment of a positive US identity through familiar American myths. The pro-NAFTA discourse constructed NAFTA in a way that tempered the negative image of Mexico and enabled the possibility of accepting NAFTA in the US. President Clinton acknowledged that his campaign had succeeded in changing the meaning of NAFTA. "When we started, NAFTA had significance for those who were fighting against it, all out of proportion to the impact it could have...It now has acquired a symbolic significance for those of us who are for it, too" (Mayer, 1998:309). Understanding the successful passage of NAFTA, therefore, depends on analyzing the role of discourse and language in constructing foreign policy.


Discourse and the Production of Meaning

In understanding the construction of foreign policy through discursive elements, it is necessary not only to ground the interpretation in recent international relations literature, but also to argue the significance of this approach in analyzing NAFTA. Why argue that NAFTA was discursively constructed when other, perhaps more dominant and accepted approaches could be used? Since it has already been established that the US public holds a long-standing belief that Mexico is inferior to the US, it follows that a cognitive analysis could offer insight into how NAFTA was perceived by the US public and US policymakers and might serve as an alternative to the discursive approach in analyzing the NAFTA debate.

Cognitive Psychology and Foreign Policy Analysis

By calling attention to the cognitive aspects of individuals involved in foreign policy making, the political psychology literature problematized the social environment of the subject and contributed the startling possibility that policy was not always based on rational choices and interests, but might be profoundly effected by the cognitive beliefs, perceptions and personality of the individual. Political psychology research brought to the forefront of foreign policy analysis worldviews and beliefs as significant factors in policy making. This shifted the analysis of foreign policy from an objective reality of circumstances to cognitive perceptions where the meaning of a particular event originates with the individual and not the outside world.

Cognitive images are one aspect of this literature body and research has examined the impact of images on various foreign policy decisions (Herrmann, R., 1985; Cottam, M., 1986). These images function as perceptual filters and organize the world based on certain categories. They enable a response to certain behaviors and act like stereotypes, complete with certain 'facts' that support the reason for such categorization. Policy makers and individuals have a political worldview comprised of images including prototypes of the enemy, ally, and dependent (Cottam, M., 1994). Cottam argues that the image of Latin America has influenced US policy in the region which explains US propensity for intervention as well as periods of neglect over the past century. The cognitive psychological analysis of US foreign policy poses the question: How did US policy makers' images of a state or region influence their policies, tactics, and strategies?

While cognitive political psychology has contributed to problematizing the social environment of the subject and established that certain collective images influence perceptions of states, it fails to explain how these shared images constitute the subject and the social environment. If individual cognitive images are in fact collective enough to influence policy behavior, how are these images constructed? While much of the data used by cognitive political psychology are public statements such as speeches or congressional hearings, the language itself is thought of as referential; language is a conduit of meaning that exposes individual worldviews, beliefs and perceptions rather than productive of the meaning itself (Doty, 1993). This view implies that signifiers refer back to signifieds and therefore language is merely naming the meanings that already exist in the minds of actors. The question of how these meanings are formed in the mind in the first place is avoided along with the question of dominant meanings and the question of power.

In the case of NAFTA, something besides cognitive images were at play in the US debate. This article argues that despite the successful passage of NAFTA, the negative, dependent image of Mexico did not change. If this is the case, how was this image, an image with substantial power that has influenced Latin American policy in the past, circumvented by policy makers? This question is best answered by moving beyond the sole use of cognitive psychology to a discursive analysis of the production of political symbolism through language. The Politics of Language

In cognitive approaches to foreign policy, the individual controls what constitutes meaning. A discursive approach using a Foucauldian perspective argues that no one controls meaning. Instead, meaning is created in the play of dominant discourses during a specific historical period (Foucault, 1972). Although a discursive approach connects the individual to the situation directly contrasting the cognitive approach's distinction between the person making a decision and the 'decision situation,' these two approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive (Shapiro, 1988). In tandem, they offer an explanation for the creation of collective meaning that connects the power of productive language with the tenacity of established cognitive images. Therefore, a policy such as NAFTA is made meaningful for individuals by the competing discourses and elements of representations surrounding it and the cognitive images preconceived by individuals.

The way a policy is represented to the public is anchored by the prior representations and the already established images of a given society. New representations are constrained and enabled by how well they fit within this cultural system (Doty, 1993). If indeed the anti-NAFTA campaign established its arguments early on and they fit within the already established negative image of Mexico, then each subsequent statement on the trade accord had to fit within this representation. Even the pro-NAFTA arguments were constrained by these prior representations, so consequently the 'debate' on NAFTA was limited to a relatively small set of issues such as jobs, environment, wages, and immigration.

The NAFTA discourse consisted of representational elements that gave meaning to the trade accord beyond the lowering of tariffs or the establishment of a regional trade block. In a discourse, representational elements consist of certain phrases, visual images, myths, analogies, or metaphors (Hall, 1997). They are then circulated and through this circulation become symbols of a larger discursive construction that comes to define the thing, in this case NAFTA, in a very real and formidable manner. Therefore, meaning is produced and assigned through language that constructs "a cluster of ideas, images and practices [that] provide ways of talking about forms of knowledge and conduct associated with a particular topic, social activity or institutional site in society" (Hall, 1997:6). These 'cluster of ideas' or political symbols gain currency based on the associations they evoke. By touching cultural values and myths, symbols "evoke an attitude, a set of impressions or a pattern of events associated through time, through space, through logic or through imagination with the symbol" (Edelman, 1964:6). It is then possible for multiple representations to evoke competing meanings and for some discourses to acquire dominance over others often based on the power of these associations.

A discursive approach to foreign policy analysis implies that language has a productive power and is not simply a conduit of information as assumed in cognitive psychology. Instead, language consists of signifiers that do not necessarily refer back to signifieds, but can refer to other signifiers thereby constructing a web of symbols that allows the ever-expanding circulation of possible meanings (Doty, 1993). This understanding has radical implications for foreign policy analysis, as the language of trade, for example, refers not to the policy itself, but to the discursive representations of policy. Therefore, the locus of power is not in the dominant players involved in policymaking, but in the discourses that impose meaning and construct possible policy actions. According to Doty (1993), the central question in analyzing policy is shifted from why a particular policy is made, to how the discourses embedding the policy are constructed. By analyzing how the discourse(s) were constructed in the case of NAFTA, it becomes readily apparent that the dominant representations of NAFTA originated with common American myths that connected the 'dull' trade accord to passionate American cultural values thereby turning NAFTA into the dominant public debate during the Fall of 1993.

While a particular discourse is historically situated, myths are essentially timeless. They are referents from the past that when evoked add weight to a particular discourse and give additional meaning and importance to an event. Myths, images and other representational elements are often deployed by policy makers when introducing a policy to the public in order to incorporate the familiar and accepted with the new and questionable (Kenworthy, 1995). Myths can stem from historical narratives, but express a characterization of the event rather than an account of history itself. For example, in explaining America's purpose for military involvement in Kosovo, Clinton evoked the 'just war' myth of World War II in order to justify intervention in an unfamiliar foreign country. As Kenworthy (1995:13) emphasizes, "myth can be understood as a story that constructs meaning by mobilizing associations already extant in the culture and re-deploying them toward new objects (public policies for example) that then acquire the authority of those older meanings."

Myths are important in defining a national identity and also help produce a "common interpretation of the world in a situation where many individuals possess little information" (Lotz, 1997:73). In other words, myths are apt to form around a situation that demands an explanation and once an explanation is given and encoded in myth, it defines and determines a debate far into the future (Kenworthy, 1995). For example, most Americans believe in the US Constitution although relatively few actually know what it says. Yet, as a myth, the Constitution represents a core value of US culture and is often evoked to garner support for policy. Moreover, American myths have a long history of association with public policy. As Vlahos (1988:1091) explains, "more than other modern societies, America relies, even depends, on myth to cement its confidence in current policies." President Reagan, for example, relied on the myth of the American Revolution to generate support for the "freedom fighting" Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Myths that represent the core beliefs of society are utilized frequently by politicians to shape public opinion and wrest consent for action from a skeptical public.


Myth and NAFTA

American myths were a central component of the NAFTA discourse. In examining the use of myth in constructing NAFTA, this article relies and builds on prior research conducted by Hellmut Lotz (1997). Lotz found that in the debate between vice-president Al Gore and Ross Perot held on CNN's Larry King Live on November 9, 1993, both sides' referenced three dominant American myths in their arguments. Lotz categorized these myths as the American Dream, American Exceptionalism and Populism (Lotz, 1997:82). The American Dream myth embodies the belief that America is the "source of human progress and can achieve perfection as a society" (Vlahos, 1988:1092). This myth supports the idea that America must strive for a more perfect union where all people have the opportunity to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and create better lives than their parents had. The second myth, American Exceptionalism, refers to the belief that America is the greatest nation in the world, the only remaining superpower and, as Benjamin Franklin wrote, that "America's Cause is the Cause of all Mankind" (Nash and Graves as cited by Kenworthy, 1995:23). The American Exceptionalism myth has two contradictory secondary myths within it: Isolationism and Leadership. The Isolationism myth refers to America's need to protect its greatness against corruption from the outside while the American Leadership myth embodies America's moral strength and ability to spread greatness and American values -- democracy, freedom, liberal economies -- around the globe. The final myth, Populism evokes the concept we the people and upholds that individuals have rights that should not be violated by dominant, institutional power or the wealthy. From this myth stems the belief in protection for the individual against monopolies and the working class from exploitation by elites.

In examining transcripts of the Gore/Perot debate, Lotz found that Gore relied heavily on the American Dream myth and, the secondary myth of American Exceptionalism: American Leadership, while Perot focused almost exclusively on Populism and the contrasting secondary myth of American Exceptionalism: Isolationism. While both Gore and Perot relied on different myths to substantiate their claims about the effects of NAFTA, neither directly contradicted the other's representation of Mexico. In fact, Perot's dominant use of Isolationism and Populism most likely reflected his belief that these myths would evoke and affirm the already established dependent image of Mexico held by US citizens. This becomes apparent when the assumptions of these myths are applied to NAFTA and compared to the dependent image as defined by Cottam, precisely that Mexico should not be economically integrated with the US because it is "weak, childlike, inferior, inept, and led by a small and often corrupt elite" (Cottam, M., 1994:25). It follows that Perot relied on this ingrained image to solicit support for his anti-NAFTA position. Gore never refuted Perot's portrayal of Mexico but instead relied on myths that drew on the greatness of the US and its ability to lead, rise above adversity and to provide a beacon of hope for the future. Gore relied on the myths that re-emphasized the US self-image as unique, strong and prosperous to persuade the public that supporting NAFTA was good for the country.

In examining how myths contributed to a dominant NAFTA discourse, it is important to remember that while the Gore/Perot debate was an important component, it is situated in a larger NAFTA discourse that consists of multiple forums including advertisements. Lotz's research begins an interesting investigation into the use of myth in policy-making, but fails to address the larger discourse. By not acknowledging that all subjects, both the audience and the debaters in this case, were heavily informed by the representatives elements that had already taken place over the past months, the single event of the Gore/Perot debate is given undue credit by Lotz for its impact on NAFTA's success. Clearly without these previous representational practices, the Gore/Perot debate would have generated about as much interest as dishwater for most Americans. Therefore, this article contributes to and extends Lotz's research by investigating the use of myth in advertising NAFTA and providing a framework for NAFTA in which the Gore/Perot debate later took place.


Advertising NAFTA

During the NAFTA debate in the US an elaborate media campaign was launched by those with a vested interest in promoting their positions. Newspaper advertisements were one component of this campaign. The images and representations of NAFTA that appeared in these advertisements are representative of the entire NAFTA debate. In fact, many of the advertisements highlighted excerpts from speeches of various political figures involved in the NAFTA debate thereby recirculating existing discursive representations. Advertisements often rely on myths to make associations between the consumer and the product (Kenworthy, 1995). Therefore, as a medium, political advertisements provide a microcosm of the discursive elements involved in representing an issue or a candidate. Because advertisements work by engaging emotion and memories rather than logic and reason, they are the perfect conduit for the productive power of language and political symbolism and an effective tool for analyzing the representational elements of a discourse.

This article examines the advertisements both for and against NAFTA that appeared in three major newspapers, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, from August 15, 1993 to November 17, 1993. Each newspaper was scanned for advertisements regarding NAFTA and a total of approximately 50 advertisements were found within the three-month parameter of this study. In order to analyze the data according to a content analysis method, the individual advertisements were coded using the categories defined by Lotz (see Figure 1). By replicating his coding method rather than creating original categories of meaning catered to the data, this study intends to demonstrate a consistency in the use of myths beyond the Larry King Live debate and throughout the NAFTA discourse in accordance with Lotz's own definitions. If in fact the advertisements relied on the same myths as Perot and Gore, then the NAFTA discourse is traceable from at least August 1993 and a case for the use of myth in constructing the meaning of NAFTA is strengthened beyond one empirical study.

Lotz's definitions of the four myths in reference to the NAFTA debate are as follows (see Figure 2). Any references to jobs for US workers, either potential job gain or job loss, standard of living, or admiration for Americans and their products were coded as the American Dream myth. Statements regarding the American ability to rise to the challenge, to create positive change in Mexico and to American strength to overcome deficiencies were coded as the American Leadership branch of the American Exceptionalism Myth. References to American vulnerability, possible job loss due to conditions in Mexico or elsewhere, worsening of environmental standards or terrible Mexican conditions were coded as the Isolationism branch of American Exceptionalism. The last myth, Populism, was coded if there were references to the democratic process, to elites, corporations, lobbyists versus the people or to special interest groups or the foreign lobby (Lotz, 1997).

The coding method as applied to newspaper advertisements, followed these rules. Each advertisement was examined and if one or more of these references appeared, it was coded under that particular myth. Quite often one advertisement was coded under more than one myth. For example, the American Dream and American Leadership were often evoked in one single advertisement. An advertisement in the Washington Post declared, "Who says America isn't ready to compete globally? We're ready to compete, and we're ready for NAFTA. NAFTA will strengthen America's position in the global economy, open doors to economic growth, and increase U.S. jobs" ("Who Says," 1993:B8). This advertisement would be coded under American Dream because of its reference to increasing US jobs and American Leadership for its reference to America's ability to compete and take a leading role in the global economy.

Isolationism and Populism were often coded together in the same advertisement in a similar fashion to American Dream and American Leadership. An anti-NAFTA advertisement, for example, stated, "Under NAFTA, the U.S. could be forced to import pesticide-laden food or to pay fines to keep the food out. Say hello to more poisons in your food. Say good-bye to the democratic process" ("Eight Fatal," 1993:A29). Therefore, the reference to lower environmental standards due to contact with Mexico evoked Isolationism and the reference to an infringed democratic process evoked Populism.


Figure 1
Chronology of NAFTA Advertising 9/16/93-11/17/93

Codes: A.D.=American Dream, A.L.=American Leadership, P.=Populism, I.=Isolationism,
WP=Washington Post, NY=New York Times, LA=Los Angeles Times, *=Anti-Nafta
Date Paper Title Myth Citation
1 16-Sep WP Presidents support Nafta A.D., A. L. A4
* 2 22-Sep WP 8 Fatal Flaws of Nafta A.D., P., I. A29
* 3 22-Sep NY 8 Fatal Flaws of Nafta A.D., P., I. A17
* 4 23-Sep NY Slaughter of Sea Turtles sign of Nafta I. B7
5 14-Oct WP Mexico Today- supports Nafta A.D., A.L. A28
6 19-Oct NY Special Ad Section Supporting Nafta A.D., A.L. D12-D20
* 7 21-Oct WP Real Cost of Nafta -- job loss A.D., I., P. A28
8 22-Oct WP Open doors to job growth A.D., A.L. A20
9 24-Oct WP 300 Economists, 6 presidents support nafta A.D., A.L. A40
10 24-Oct NY 300 Economists, 6 presidents support nafta A.D., A.L. A23
11 24-Oct LA 300 Economists, 6 presidents support nafta A.D., A.L. A31
12 26-Oct WP Ad Suppliment: Nafta Yes! A.L., A.D. B1-B8
* 13 27-Oct WP Ad Suppliment: Nafta No! A.D., I., P. A18-A20
* 14 28-Oct WP Real Cost of Nafta -- job loss A.D., I., P. A20
15 28-Oct NY Presidents support Nafta A.D., A.L., P. D3
16 28-Oct LA Mexico Today - supports Nafta A.D., A.L. A17
17 31-Oct WP Presidents support Nafta A.D., A.L., P. B4
18 31-Oct NY Nafta will help them grow up to be what they want A.D. A35
19 31-Oct LA Presidents support A.D., A.L., P. A23
20 2-Nov NY Nafta will help them grow up... A.D. A17
* 21 4-Nov WP big corps. and lobbyists tell us N. won't threaten.. P., I. A18
22 4-Nov NY Trading options A.L., A.D. A27
23 8-Nov WP 300 econ. support nafta A.D., A.L. A16
24 8-Nov NY 300 econ. support nafta A.D., A.L. A5
25 8-Nov LA 300 econ. support nafta A.D., A.L. A15
26 9-Nov WP When did more customers mean fewer jobs.. A.L., A.D. C5
* 27 10-Nov WP Why are MNCs spending $ to pass Nafta? A.D., P., I. A24
28 10-Nov NY Grow up to be what... A.D. A16
29 10-Nov LA Pres. support Nafta A.D., A.L. A6
30 12-Nov WP Asking you not to believe in fairy tales P., A.D., A.L. A45
31 12-Nov NY Grow up to be what... A.D. A35
32 12-Nov NY Asking you not to believe in fairy tales P., A.D., A.L. A13
33 12-Nov LA Asking you not to believe in fairy tales P., A.D., A.L. A25
* 34 15-Nov NY 8 Fatal Flaws... A.D., P., I. A5
35 15-Nov NY Letter to Pres. supporting Nafta A.L., A.D. A7
36 15-Nov NY Grow up to be what... A.D. A13
37 16-Nov WP Nafta essential for tomorrow A.L., A.D. A18
* 38 16-Nov WP 8 Fatal Flaws... A.D., P., I. A19
39 17-Nov WP Courage to do what's right--pass Nafta A.L., A.D. A21


Figure 2 Key Concepts for Coding Myths
American Dream Isolationism
  • Increase or decrease in US jobs
  • Standard of Living
  • Admiration for US Products
  • Job loss specifically relating to conditions in Mexico
  • Lowering of environmental standards
  • Terrible conditions in Mexico
American Leadership Populism
  • Rise to Challenge
  • Create positive change in Mexico
  • Strength to overcome deficiencies
  • Democratic process
  • Elites vs. people
  • Special Interest Groups or Foreign Lobby

Coding the advertisements according to Lotz's categories revealed almost identical findings for both the Gore/Perot debate and the NAFTA advertisements (see Figure 3). Some of the similarities of the two studies are described and highlighted here. The anti-NAFTA advertisements and Perot used Isolationism more frequently then any other myth. On the other hand, the pro-NAFTA advertisements and Gore focused most on the American Dream myth. Neither Gore nor the pro-NAFTA advertisements evoked Isolationism at all. Similarly, American Leadership was used extensively by the pro-NAFTA advertisements and Gore, but not once evoked by the anti-NAFTA advertisements. Further analysis of the content of the advertisements will explain more specifically how these myths permeated the NAFTA discourse.


Evidence of Myth

American Dream

The American Dream was the most frequently used myth in the NAFTA discourse and consisted of 39.5 percent of the total myths used by both pro- and anti-NAFTA advertisements, almost 20 percent more than the next most utilized myth. In the pro-NAFTA advertisements alone, it was coded 30 times out of 39 total references and made up 49 percent of the total of myths used by this side of the campaign. The myth primarily appeared as concern for jobs and as frequent mention of how NAFTA would improve the individual lives of Americans. The very first NAFTA advertisement


Figure 3
Comparison of Findings
Use of Myths by Percentage
American Dream American Leadership Isolationism Populism
Pro-NAFTA Advertisements 49% 41% 0% 10%
Gore 44% 33% 0% 22%
Anti-NAFTA Advertisements 30% 0% 37% 34%
Perot 20% 7% 40% 33%

appearing in the data set appealed to the American Dream myth. Boxed on both sides by pictures of Presidents Clinton, Carter, Ford, Bush, Reagan and Nixon, the text stated: What do these Presidents agree on? NAFTA. A trade agreement that: Creates as many as 200,000 new American jobs; Saves 700,000 existing American jobs that are dependent on exports to Mexico; Lowers barriers to US exports so that we can sell more products to Mexico and Canada ("What Do These Presidents," 1993:A4).

The American Dream myth also appeared in the mentioning of job loss since any reference to American jobs fit the category. One anti-NAFTA advertisement coded under the American Dream myth stated, "It's time to tell American taxpayers about the real cost of NAFTA. Americans give up their jobs, lower their incomes and pay for it all with their taxes. It's a bad policy and American voters know it" ("It's Time to Tell," 1993:A28).

However, advertisements coded under the American Dream referenced more than jobs and often framed NAFTA as incorporating American values, hopes for the future and quality of life. For example, one pro-NAFTA advertisement directly referenced the American Dream in portraying NAFTA as beneficial for the future:

More than just about anything, the American Dream has to do with passing on to our children a better life than we had. But for the first time in generations, there's real doubt as to whether Americans will be able to do that. Which is why NAFTA is so important ("NAFTA Will Help Them," 1993:A35).

An anti-NAFTA advertisement addressing quality of life warned of the detrimental effects of trade barriers to America's future:

In today's interdependent global economic system, the free flow of trade and investment across borders is fundamental. Barriers to trade are barriers to economic growth. They result in lost opportunities to expand new markets, higher prices for consumers and they drain economic vitality. The result: fewer new jobs and an overall diminished quality of life ("Trading Options," 1993:A27).

In the Washington Post, one anti-NAFTA advertisement warned, "The proposed NAFTA agreement will change American life forever. It will lower the standard of living in the U.S. while enriching only the already elite of Mexican society" ("NAFTA No!" 1993:A19).

By associating NAFTA with the American Dream, these advertisements added weight and importance to the policy and connected the trade accord to the lives of average Americans. As the dominant myth of the pro-NAFTA advertisements, the American Dream associated NAFTA with a positive and hopeful self-image of America's future and was utilized to overcome the negative image that evoked doubts about associating with Mexico.


American Leadership

The American Leadership myth refers to America's ability to overcome adversity and to create positive change around the world through connection with other countries. References to American Leadership were coded twenty-five times or 41 percent for the pro-NAFTA advertisements and not once for the anti-NAFTA advertisements. American Leadership was the second most frequently used myth by the pro-NAFTA advertisements. Recall that American Leadership is one branch of the American Exceptionalism myth along with Isolationism.

References to American strength and ability to overcome shortcomings combated the anti-NAFTA advertisements portrayal of lower Mexican standards for environmental and labor regulations. In other words, the American Leadership myth counteracted the Isolationism myth deployed by the anti-NAFTA advertisements. The pro-NAFTA advertisements promoted the American ability to compete and win and not to give in to fear and hence retreat. Arguments against retreating were highlighted with analogies to the Great Depression as demonstrated in the following advertisement.

1930 - We stand alone. High tariffs. Smoot Hawley. Isolationism. Americans for Americans. We trade with few. No on trades with us. [This] Equals the Great Depression. 1993 - ABB considers NAFTA to be essential to the success of our economy and the economy of the world. It's one step forward ("The History," 1993:B2).

Facing the future and turning away from fear were common references of the American Leadership myth. One advertisement declared:

In the end, NAFTA is about facing the future with confidence -- about believing that Americans can still compete and win, about expanding our horizons and seizing the opportunity of growing our economy through increasing our exports. NAFTA because America can win ("NAFTA. Controversial Today," 1993:A19).

Another advertisement stated,

Remember, what's right for America will always encounter opposition from those who are frightened by change. This opposition must be answered by all of us who care about the future. Make no mistake about it. We are all in this global economy together. Let's show, once again, that we have the courage to do what's right and support NAFTA with everything we've got. Now is the time for leadership ("The Courage," 1993:A21).

By evoking the American Leadership myth, many NAFTA advertisements argued that while Mexico had problems, NAFTA would help overcome them. One advertisement argued that, "NAFTA will encourage Mexico to adhere to strict environmental regulations" ("Why 300 Economists Support NAFTA," 1993:A31). Another advertisement stated,

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement--NAFTA--Mexico will become stronger economically, and have more resources to protect the environment and eliminate sources of pollution...NAFTA is a good deal for everyone who cares about the environment--and for the trees, rivers and wildlife that are part of it. Let's get together with NAFTA ("Mexico Today," 1993:A28).

American Leadership, as a branch of American Exceptionalism, evokes a feeling of pride and optimism in the ability of America to move forward towards a more positive future. Using this myth to generate support for NAFTA allowed the pro-NAFTA campaign to counter the opposition's portrayal of Mexico without directly countering their claims of poorer conditions. In other words, the pro-NAFTA campaign did not attempt to persuade the public that Mexico did not actually have the problems that the opposition claimed, but rather by relying on the American Leadership myth, they attempted to convince the public that despite some problems with the trade accord and in Mexico, America could succeed and win. The use of the American Leadership myth demonstrates how myths succeeded in constructing a positive self-image for America and a discourse about NAFTA that overcame, rather then displaced the dominant image of Mexico.



Isolationism is the second branch of the American Exceptionalism myth. It is juxtaposed to the corresponding branch, American Leadership and refers to America's vulnerability if exposed to corrupt political systems and the need to protect the prosperity of Americans from outside forces. Isolationism was the anti-NAFTA campaign's main myth and was coded 11 times or 37 percent of the total myths referenced by this side of the campaign. Isolationism was not used at all by the pro-NAFTA advertisements. The anti-NAFTA advertisements warned of high costs to taxpayers due to the environmental cost of NAFTA and of the flight of jobs to Mexico so that corporations could take advantage of cheap labor and lower regulation. For example, this advertisement stated:

NAFTA: Who Wins? Who Loses? Taxpayers lose. NAFTA will cost $20 billion or more in lost revenue and for the cost of border cleanup and US unemployment. It will take a tax increase to pay for NAFTA...US corporations will expand in Mexico, not at home. And American workers will be forced to compete with workers making just a dollar an hour ("NAFTA: Who Wins?" 1993:A20).

Another anti-NAFTA advertisement declared:

Promoted as a boon for all of us, the true purpose of NAFTA is to help large corporations increase their profits. NAFTA does this by undermining laws and standards (in the US, Canada, and Mexico) that inhibit uncontrolled corporate freedoms...Freedom to set poor working conditions and keep wages low ("Eight Fatal," 1993:A29).

Concern that poor conditions in Mexico could detrimentally affect the US was a theme also coded under Isolationism. In an anti-NAFTA advertisement, Representative David Bonior was quoted as saying,

Anyone concerned about the lives and futures of American, Canadian or Mexican workers should not ignore the reality of Mexico's policies today. NAFTA will lock in the status quo--accelerating economic damage to both Mexico and the U.S. Our future is linked with the future of the people of Mexico. But we must be on the side of those fighting for democratic reform and a decent living standard--not on the side of the status quo ("NAFTA No!" 1993:A18).

Environmental degradation was also a dominant theme of the anti-NAFTA advertisements. One advertisement stated, "Does Mexican President Carlos Salinas honor his environmental promises? If 'free' trade means the extinction of gentle giant sea turtles, you can imagine what other environmental horrors lie in wait for animals and human beings alike" ("Does Mexican President," 1993:B7). Another advertisement proclaimed,

NAFTA's an environmental loser. NAFTA's opponents argue that while Mexico has strict environmental laws, they are rarely enforced. Problem is -- Mexico lacks the resources to be an equal and responsible partner with the U.S. and Canada. In 1991, for example, America's per capita spending for environmental protection was 132 times as much as Mexico's" ("NAFTA No!" 1993:A18).

The anti-NAFTA advertisements also argued that NAFTA would lower, not raise, US living standards. "Americans will be forced to accept lower wages and a lower standard of living. The fact is NAFTA will put even more pressure on Americans to compete against workers in Mexico who are paid as little as $6 a day" ("It's Time to Tell," 1993:A28). Therefore, Isolationism, as the main myth of the anti-NAFTA advertisements, portrayed NAFTA as devastating the lives of American workers and harming the country. Drawing on the already existing negative image of Mexico, the Isolationism myth accentuated the fears of Americans and portrayed a grim picture of the future if NAFTA succeeded.

The Isolationism myth complemented perfectly the already existing negative image of Mexico held in the US. By relying heavily on this myth, the anti-NAFTA advertisements intended to access this embedded image and therefore maintain the impossibility of an equal trading relationship between the US and Mexico. Isolationism further ingrained and circulated the image of Mexico as weak, dependent and corrupt.



The advertisements coded under the Populism myth emphasized the lack of democracy in the NAFTA negotiations, the possibility that NAFTA would threaten the democratic process and the role of corporations, special interest lobbies and foreign money on the NAFTA campaign. Both pro- and anti-NAFTA advertisements often evoked Populism to dramatize the effects of NAFTA. It made up 24.75 percent of the total references, second only to American Dream, but was more often used by the anti-NAFTA side totaling 34 percent of the myths used in these advertisements, the second most frequently used myth.

Corporations and elites versus the people was a theme that evoked the Populism myth often in the anti-NAFTA advertisements. The following advertisements exemplify this: "NAFTA will seriously stifle representative democracy by making local, state or national laws subject to an unelected NAFTA bureaucracy that citizens cannot control" ("Eight Fatal," 1993:A19). Another advertisement stated, "The big corporations and Mexican lobbyists tell us NAFTA won't threaten US jobs and wages. But that's not what they tell each other. They tell each other the truth" ("Big Corporations and Lobbyists," 1993:A18).

Some anti-NAFTA advertisements coded under Populism warned of the loss of sovereignty under NAFTA. "[NAFTA] will place our trade laws under the foreign control of panels of international lawyers" ("NAFTA No!" 1993:A19). Another advertisement stated,

NAFTA weakens U.S. sovereignty. Opponents maintain that NAFTA would weaken U.S. sovereignty by permitting labor and environmental disputes to be decided by bi-national review panels--effectively countermanding decisions by the U.S. Congress and U.S. courts ("NAFTA No!" 1993:A18).

The pro-NAFTA advertisements evoked the Populism myth when they referred to "special interest" groups. For example, one pro-NAFTA advertisement stated,

Citibank stands behind NAFTA. We believe it is the key to the future economic success of the United States. And that's crucial to us, because as your prosperity grows, so does ours. But special interest groups are lined up against NAFTA, seriously threatening its passage in Congress" ("Presidents Support NAFTA," 1993:A6).

The use of the Populism myth added an underdog dimension to the NAFTA debate. Primarily used by the anti-NAFTA advertisements and Perot, the Populism myth effectively rallied labor unions and promoted a sense of urgency about NAFTA for the working American. This myth carried the anti-NAFTA campaign's position home to the working class and played on the distrust of the government held by many Americans.

The Populism myth upheld the negative image of Mexico when used by the anti-NAFTA advertisements by emphasizing loss of US sovereignty and democracy due to the political corruption and faulty political system in Mexico. The pro-NAFTA advertisements never countered these claims, but instead evoked the myth to draw attention to the threatened democratic process in the US caused by intense lobbying. Therefore the actual image of Mexico as a weak and inferior country remained unchanged.

When applying Lotz's definitions of myths used in representing NAFTA, it is clear that myths were used by the two main sides of the NAFTA debate in many forums. The same myths used by Gore and Perot were also used in advertising NAFTA. Myths were responsible for constructing NAFTA for the American public and these distinct representations came to define and enable the debate in the US. These dominant myths circulated throughout the entire NAFTA discourse and existed simultaneously with the already embedded image of Mexico. There was a distinct interplay between the use of myths and image during the NAFTA debate. It is clear from the examination of the myths used in advertising NAFTA that underlying the discourse was this long-standing negative image. The relationship between the image of Mexico and the myths used to construct a dominant NAFTA discourse is imperative to understanding NAFTA's success.


Image and Myth in NAFTA Advertisements

In analyzing myths in the NAFTA advertisements, it is important to remember the original query of this article into the possible transformation of the US image of Mexico given the passage of NAFTA. Earlier the question was posed; did the passage of NAFTA signify a change in the image of Mexico held by the US? It is clear from the above investigation into the dominant use of the Isolationism myth and the Populism myth by the anti-NAFTA advertisements that these myths actually perpetuated and relied on the established image of Mexico, as a low wage, socially troubled, environmentally polluted country that exports illegal aliens, in order to establish reasons for rejecting NAFTA. However, it seems logical that the anti-NAFTA campaign would rely on this negative image to remind the US public just how impossible the passage of NAFTA should be. In order to demonstrate that the US image of Mexico remained unchanged and instead was overlaid by a more dominant discourse on NAFTA, the pro-NAFTA advertisements must be analyzed to show how those that were advocating equal partnership portrayed Mexico. Did the pro-NAFTA advertisements address the shortcomings of Mexico championed by the opposition thereby transforming the previously held image? Did these advertisements portray Mexico more positively than as a low wage, inferior, weak, socially troubled, environmentally polluted country that exports illegal aliens to the US?

These questions can be partially answered by the above discussion on the use of the American Leadership myth by the pro-NAFTA advertisements. This myth and the examples taken from the advertisements themselves demonstrate how the pro-NAFTA advertisements depended on references to America's ability to lead and overcome adversity to rise above Mexico's shortcomings. As stated above, this myth was primarily used to counter the claims of the opposition, not with a more positive portrayal of Mexico, but with the myth that called on America's ability to elevate Mexico's environmental standards. For example, Kathryn Fuller, President of the World Wildlife Fund, said in one advertisement:

If NAFTA fails, we will have missed a critical environmental opportunity. Foreign investment in Mexico is sure to continue to grow regardless of what happens to NAFTA, but the opportunity and the means to help control and guide such investment to the benefit of the North American environment will be largely lost ("NAFTA Yes!" 1993:B3).
In other words, without the US, Mexico's environmental standards and inferior regulation would remain the same. However, it was already demonstrated above that American Leadership was used as an argument for improving environmental standards in Mexico. In moving away from the above discussion on myths and towards the definition of the established image of Mexico held by the US, it becomes clear that the pro-NAFTA advertisements also perpetuated the negative image in their portrayal of the country.

There were two dominant themes found in the pro-NAFTA advertisements that fit into the previously defined image of Mexico. The first theme recapitulated Mexico's weakness, inferiority and inability to threaten US workers and the second theme raised the issue of illegal immigration and NAFTA's ability to stem its flow from Mexico. Both these themes maintained the established image rather than attempting to recreate it.

In arguing for support of NAFTA, these advertisements ridiculed the anti-NAFTA opposition's use of possible job loss by lambasting Mexico's ability to threaten US workers. One advertisement stated:

Concern about wage differences miss the key point that other factors -- higher U.S. productivity (currently six times that of Mexico), the skill of the workforce, access to high-quality transport and other infrastructure...and a reliable government and judicial system -- are also crucial in business decisions. The image of droves of U.S. corporations heading to Mexico just doesn't make sense when these other considerations are taken into account. More and more U.S. firms that tried relocating to Mexico have learned the hard way and have come back home [emphasis added] ("Supporting NAFTA," 1993:D14).

Another advertisement countered the NAFTA opposition's arguments by focusing on America's genuine economic competition and threat:

Most NAFTA opposition is driven by fear. Fear of change, fear of the new economy, fear of the unknown...The fact is, our real competitors are in Western Europe and the Pacific Rim, not in Mexico. Blaming our economic troubles on Mexico is like blaming the Midwest floods on a leaky faucet in Minneapolis ("NAFTA Yes!" 1993:B5).

Clearly, this demonstrates that Mexico was seen as inferior and not on equal stature as the US and other more developed countries. One final example of how the pro-NAFTA advertisements pitted the strength of the US against the weakness and inferiority of Mexico follows: "U.S. workers have skills and talents and training that have no match in Mexico...The anti-NAFTA lobby insults U.S. workers by saying they cannot compete with lower-paid Mexican workers [emphasis added]" ("NAFTA Yes!" 1993:B7). Incidentally, President Clinton echoed these remarks in a public statement when he declared that "only someone who was 'nuts' would say that America could not win in a head to head competition with Mexico" (Friedman, 1993:B9). These examples taken from the pro-NAFTA advertisements demonstrate that the negative image of Mexico as weak, inferior, low-wage and inept remained intact even in the representations offered by those that argued for equal economic partnership. Mexico remained an inferior counterpart to the US and therefore, it was argued, a strong and competent American workforce would have no trouble succeeding under NAFTA.

The second theme that supported this negative image was the often repeated issue of illegal immigration. Again, in looking solely at the pro-NAFTA advertisements, 40 percent referenced illegal immigration from Mexico in representing NAFTA. This obviously contributed to the image held in the US that Mexico exports illegal aliens to the US. Even President Clinton, the main NAFTA proponent and supporter of equal partnership, publicly warned that rejecting NAFTA would result in a flood of illegal immigrants (Marcus and Behr, 1993:A16). These representations of NAFTA maintained the existing negative image of Mexico while simultaneously supporting America's ability to positively influence its southern neighbor through the trade accord. One advertisement argued, "By strengthening the Mexican as well as the American economy, NAFTA will decrease Mexican unemployment, which is the leading cause of illegal immigration into the United States" ("For Once," 1993:A45). Another advertisement declared, "NAFTA. A Trade Agreement that: Takes the first real step in stemming the tide of illegal immigration into the U.S. by stabilizing the Mexican economy" ("What Do These Presidents," 1993:A4). These are a few of the many examples of how the issue of illegal immigration appeared in advertising NAFTA.

In examining the pro-NAFTA advertisements, it is clear that the long-standing negative image of Mexico remained very much the same as defined by Martha Cottam and found by the Mexican NAFTA lobby. A change in image did not take place to allow the passage of NAFTA. NAFTA succeeded despite this negative image and moreover, this image was actually used to the benefit of both the pro- and anti-NAFTA advertisements. The anti-NAFTA advertisements relied on recapitulating this image to dissuade the American public, while the pro-NAFTA advertisements utilized the negative image to quell fear of competition and to embellish the self-image of the US as strong and powerful and able to overcome deficiencies. The pro-NAFTA advertisements contributed to a dominant NAFTA discourse that relied on the use of the American Dream and American Leadership myths to construct NAFTA as a very real and necessary possibility.



The passage of NAFTA by the US House of Representatives on November 17, 1993 resulted from a discursive construction of the trade accord that represented it to the American public as an extension of pre-existing American myths. A dominant NAFTA discourse emerged during the three-month public debate that re-constituted the US self-image as one of strength, leadership and an embodiment of the American Dream of a prosperous future. As an extension of a positive US self-image, the NAFTA discourse overpowered the reigning negative image of Mexico without challenging the ingrained perception. Moreover, this negative image was actually utilized by the pro- and anti-NAFTA sides to argue each position. The dominant NAFTA discourse did not attempt to transform the image of Mexico, but relied on representational elements to create the possibility of NAFTA for the US public despite the negative image held by the US. The NAFTA discourse allowed the simultaneous existence of both the possibility of economic integration with Mexico as an equal partner and the established image of Mexico as a dependent other.

This article demonstrates how American myths were used throughout the entire NAFTA discourse and argues that a circulation of myths prior to the Gore/Perot debate created a framework for the representations presented in that singular event. A specific set of American myths were used to construct NAFTA and these same myths existed in multiple forums thereby re-circulating and cementing these representations into a dominant discourse that came to define, enable and constrain the NAFTA debate in the US. For the majority of the US public, NAFTA represented a choice between the politics of fear or hope, a "giant sucking sound" or a prosperous future for America's children, a retreat from change or a belief that America can win rather than a trade accord that lowered tariffs between three countries. Therefore how policy is represented to the public actually has a powerful effect on its ability to succeed in Congress.

Subsequently uninteresting as a trade accord, NAFTA became important to the average American when it was attached to the American Dream and the American Leadership myth in the same way that it gained urgency when represented under the Isolationism and Populism myth. Myths, representation and the discourses that embed them therefore influence and make possible the passage of US foreign policy. Understanding how policy is constructed by these elements is an important and necessary requirement for foreign policy analysis. Myths and representations not only constructed and made NAFTA possible, but they continue to influence and enable policy today. Therefore, while sometimes overlooked by conventional scholars, analysis into the discursive construction of US foreign policy warrants further academic investigation.



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