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At least NAFTA has increased profits for one U.S. industry: lobbying firms.

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Given that Mexico required a $50 billion bailout orchestrated by the United States last year after the peso crashed, one would think it might be short on cash. But, as reported by the Center for Public Integrity, Mexico spent at least $25 million from 1989 to 1993 on lobbying to secure passage of NAF TA. Since 1994, the country has spent another $9.7 million on well-heeled Washington lobbyists who make sure trade and loan negotiations go the government’s way.

“The Mexican people knew that money influenced our country,” said Javier Corral, a Chihuahua legislator who visited Washington, D.C., in May. “But we had no idea that the Mexican government could spend so much money to influence the [U.S.] government’s decision.” Among the U.S. firms to benefit: Mexico dispatched Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in 1994, on the eve of Mexico’s financial crisis, to win the country valuable government friends. Mexico has paid the firm more than $4 million.

Joseph P. O’Neill of Public Strategies Washington, a former staffer to then-Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, helped Bentsen appoint the Treasury Department staff in 1993. At the same time, O’Neill’s firm was on a $30,000 monthly retainer from Mexico. Since April 1994, the firm has “contacted” government officials 348 times, and registered NAFTA implementation as the reason for those lobbying efforts. Mexico paid the firm about $600,000.

Robert Herzstein, of Shearman & Sterling, is a former under-secretary of international trade at the Department of Commerce. His firm has assisted Mexico since 1994 with NAFTA’s implementation. “Frankly, I am unclear what lobbying means in this day and age,” he says. “If I call up a friend at the Justice Department, is that considered lobbying?” Mexico has paid his firm $2,061,691.

Burson-Marsteller, the country’s Washington public relations firm, has received a cool $1.9 million since 1994 for buffing Mexico’s public image. Similarly, another PR firm, Public Strategies, of Austin, Texas, billed Mexico in 1995 for just four months of work. Its bill: $442,000.

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