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NAFTA and the Mexico Factor

Regarding the Opinion page article "NAFTA's Faultlines," April 19: It is absurd to think that Mexico, with a $300 billion GDP, will be the economic ruin of our $6 trillion economy. If Mexico grew at the rate the author claims, it would explode from job growth and prosperity. In reality, the North American Free Trade Agreement will not change much of our economic relations with Mexico.

The author fails to mention that most Mexican products already enter the United States without any tariff, and that the average tariff "protecting" us from cheap Mexican competition is just 4 percent. American workers are more than ready to out-compete Mexico's largely unskilled labor force.

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NAFTA is, on the other hand, a very important political document. Our relationship with Mexico is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. Over the past five years, the Mexican government has opened its economy through reforms as breathtaking as those in Moscow. To throw away the prospects for continued economic development in Mexico in the name of fear would be a tremendous mistake, exacerbating problems such as illegal immigration and environmental distress. Special interest prot ectionists claim that international trade is a zero-sum game in which someone must lose if someone is to gain. That's simply wrong. Rep. David Dreier, Washington (R) of California Don't meddle with mining law

The article "Congress Considers Reform of Outdated, Costly Mining Law," March 16, is misleading. The author says, "The law helped populate the West by encouraging an industry that meant many thousands of jobs, and it also brought a steady stream of income to federal and state treasuries through business and personal income taxes." This is only part of the truth. The minerals and metals of the West built the East and gave the people of the United States and other countries all the necessities for construc tion, transportation, and entertainment.

Public revenue will be lost if these anti-mining bills are passed. There will be loss of jobs, including mining engineers, laborers, truckers, manufacturers of mining equipment, and heavy-duty operators. Look what has happened to the lumber industry. In the past, mining companies have created problems, but they are minor compared with the contamination created in the past and present by industries in the East. Jack Hall, Palmdale, Calif. Our priceless forests

Regarding the front-page article "Clinton Prepares to Break Logjam of `Owls vs. Jobs'," April 1: The spotted owls are merely a legal ploy; the environmental movement is really concerned with the spiritual value of old-growth forests to future generations, while the loggers are concerned about the dollar value of present jobs. This is why consensus is elusive.

To try to bridge this gap and estimate the dollar value of old-growth forests to our descendants, let us imagine we are faced with this choice: Do we buy just one acre of recently clear-cut federal land for $2.50, plant a forest and wait 400 years for it to grow? Or do we put the $2.50 in the bank for 5 percent interest for 400 years? After 400 years we would have $711,984,170 in the bank. No wonder the Japanese, who won't buy our rice, are happy to buy our timber. The moral is that our ancient heritage is priceless and irreplaceable. Let us face this fact: Once it is gone, it will be gone forever. Chris Lihou, Charlottesville, Va.

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