and the maquiladoras
In Latin America, Mexico is the country with the longest experience
with Free Trade Zones codified in NAFTA, the North America Free
Trade Agreement. Mexico has become the international example for
the transfer of labour-intensive assembly and manufacturing operations
by transnational companies to cheap labour countries, an important
feature of the neo-liberal economic model. The movement of assembly
operations within the North American market has created a huge maquiladora
industry in Mexico.
The history of maquiladoras in Mexico is characterised by relentless
growth and sudden decrease. Since the first maquiladoras were established
in the region along the Mexico-US border in 1965, the number of
employees steadily grew to 445.000 in 1980, then during the economic
crisis decreased to 398.000 in 1995 before it started growing again.
The maquila-industry reached its peak in 2000 with over 1,3 million
employees in over 3.000 factories. From there, the numbers then
dropped dramatically. Due to the US economic crisis and the emerging
competition of Asian countries joining the WTO, specifically China,
orders fell and about 350 factories closed or left the country for
Asia. Currently, the number of employees is just over 1 million,
and about 80 percent of them are women.