by June F. MacLeod
Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, San Diego
The Southern California Association of Law Libraries 23rd Annual Institute convened at the Mission Inn in Riverside on February 24 and 25, 1995.
The topic of the institute was Free Trade, Mexico, and California: Creating a Seamless Border. Approximately one hundred librarians attended this institute to learn about NAFTA and its effects on, not only the trade market, but also the environment.
Topics discussed included NAFTA information sources available on Lexis and Westlaw and the regulation of financial services under NAFTA, presented by Antonio Mendoza, who is an associate professor at the Pepperdine University School of Law.
Boris Kozolchyk, who is president and director of the National Center for Inter-American Free Trade, presented a discussion on NAFTA and how it affects the transportation industry between Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
David Gantz, director of graduate studies at the University of Arizona and associate director of the National Center for Inter-American Free Trade, spoke about trade dispute resolutions under NAFTA.
Patrick Del Duca, who is a partner at Kelley, Dry & Warren, spoke on NAFTA and the environment.
Attendees at the seminar learned of the various online resources available for NAFTA information, as well as fax "hotlines" for trade and NAFTA data. The speakers presented the various aspects of NAFTA, including the type of documents that comprise the North American Free Trade Agreement. This includes the relationship between what constitutes an international agreement as well as a treaty, and what the political aspects of NAFTA, both direct and indirect, have been on all three nations (Canada, the United States, and Mexico). Further discussion included understanding the complexities of the problems in dealing with such diverse cultures. Mr. Del Duca gave an example of the tuna embargo in which the United States is most concerned about dolphin-safe tuna. However, Mexico apparently does not have such strict regulations in fishing for tuna. The end product is the same (tuna in a can) but the regulations by which tuna are caught is so different between the two nations that there is difficulty in agreeing on rules of trade in that product.
According to the speakers, another problem that NAFTA has created is the amount of paperwork involved in the transportation of products between the three countries. The amount of receipts necessary for a shipper to physically move products from Canada to Mexico can become an administrative nightmare. In some cases, truckloads of products must be transferred at the borders on to other trucks so that the shipments can complete their route.
Much of the discussion also centered on what mechanism will be used when there are disagreements between the three nations and lawsuits are filed. One speaker recommended that it would be much easier to take an action to an arbitral commission, instead of federal court, thereby resolving the dispute in a more timely manner. One of the arbitral courts sits in Montreal, Canada, which makes it seem almost ineffective, since many of the disputes arise at the Mexico-U.S. border.
Another consideration is that NAFTA will eventually extend down through many of the Latin American countries. Many of the institute's speakers believe that Chile may be one of the first Latin American countries to adopt NAFTA.
A wonderful bibliography prepared by two members of SCALL provided the attendees with resources available under the various aspects of NAFTA (legislative history, general background, copyright and intellectual property dispute resolutions, and environmental matters), as well as resources available online and through the Internet. Law librarians will have to have knowledge of where to locate information on the ever-evolving topic of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The law librarians who attended this seminar left with a better understanding of the issues involving NAFTA.
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