Mexico’s NAFTA Lobbying Called a Record : Trade: Meanwhile, the White House is considering action to counteract Ross Perot’s opposition to the accord.


The Mexican government has unleashed the most expensive and elaborate foreign lobbying campaign ever undertaken here, hoping to ensure passage of the trade agreement it wants with the United States and Canada, a nonprofit research organization said Thursday.

And as Mexico’s lobbying for the North American Free Trade Agreement comes under scrutiny, the White House is considering establishing a special unit to counter billionaire industrialist Ross Perot’s efforts to defeat the proposed agreement.

“There is significant concern” about an anticipated Perot campaign to defeat NAFTA, a Democratic source close to the White House said. He said aides to President Clinton are contemplating a rapid-response effort similar to the one employed in Clinton’s presidential campaign.


Perot has purchased half an hour of network television time on Sunday evening as part of his public crusade against the trade agreement.

Meanwhile, in Canada--where NAFTA is widely opposed--Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on Thursday used his strong majority in Parliament to ram ratification of the pact through the House of Commons.

The agreement now goes to the Senate, which is also controlled by Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives.

Mexico’s effort to persuade the U.S. Congress to approve NAFTA has cost more than the previous three largest foreign lobbying campaigns combined--waged by South Korea, Japan and Kuwait--in the last 25 years, according to the Center for Public Integrity, an organization partly supported by labor unions.

Since 1989, Mexico has spent $25 million seeking the support of politicians and the American public for NAFTA. It is likely to spend as much as $10 million more as the issue comes to a vote in Congress later this year, the center found.

The director of the study, Charles Lewis, said the lobbying campaign breaks no law, but does highlight the extent to which the agreement’s proponents are going to win what both sides concede will be a very close contest.

In addition, Pat Choate, a political economist and author of a study of Japanese influence in the United States, said the Mexican campaign “represents interference in our domestic political decisions.”

The congressional vote has been delayed pending completion of negotiations on supplemental agreements intended to safeguard environmental and labor standards.

The CPI study made no effort to shed light on spending by U.S. supporters of the agreement, or of its opponents. Because opponents of the pact, as well as other supporters, generally represent American groups, their lobbying expenditures are less available to public scrutiny than those of foreign governments, whose representatives must make periodic reports to the Justice Department.