On Nov. 14th, 2013 Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, and Miguel Mancera, mayor of Mexico City, signed a pact to increase bilateral relations between the cities on economic development, foreign direct investment, exports, and innovation, research, education and human capital. This pact is different from the Sister Cities cultural exchange pact that Chicago and Mexico City entered into in 1991. The plan is an initiative by a group called Global Cities Initiative (GCI), a joint venture of the Brookings Institute and JPMorgan Chase. The initiatives stated goal, per their website, “is a five-year project that aims to help leaders in U.S. metropolitan areas reorient their economies toward greater engagement in world markets.” It is currently holding its annual conference in Mexico City to discuss how to further deepen NAFTA. Now, since the GCI agreement signed by the two mayors is only a pact to commit to future bilateral agreements, it is impossible to state whether or not it is positive or negative for the people of those great cities at this moment. But, by looking at the cast of characters and agreements they typically support, I believe we will have a good idea of how this will all go.
Let’s begin with Rahm Emanuel. Why should the people of Chicago or Mexico City trust this man to institute agreements that are beneficial to the majority of people? The evidence against him seems to prove beyond a preponderance of a doubt that he should not be trusted. First, I don’t think Mexicans or the people of Chicago should trust him, since his closing of 50+ public schools in Chicago was targeted at black and brown neighborhoods predominantly. It would be odd to believe he cared much for the people knowing this, except for caring about the Mexican (notorious in their disdain for their own people) and Chicago elites. Nor does he seem to care much about the gentrification of the Pilsen neighborhood, destroying a community culture rooted in Latin@ resistance to the dominant culture.
His hand-outs to large developers, like the $100 million for the DePaul University basketball stadium, point to a man who believes in the idea of austerity for the poor and stimulation for the rich. Emanuel’s deceptions are not only on the local level. As part of the Clinton White House, after a stint in the private financial sector, he helped to push through NAFTA, work for welfare, and draconian crime legislation. When the 2006 midterm elections were coming around he made sure as head of the Democratic National Campaign Committee that more progressive candidates would not be supported, especially candidates with an anti-war bent. People shouldn’t trust him at all, not one bit. Nothing he has done has ever shown him able to champion anything other than war and profit over people.
Now, Miguel Mancera’s turn. He is part of the center-left Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), which has run Mexico City since 1997. You would think with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO; two-time presidential candidate in Mexico, 2006 and 2012; mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2006) decried as the Mexican Chavez, his party would be quite radical. Actually, the PRD has seen a shift to the right as of late, with newer members having a more neoliberal bent, akin to the rightward shift of Socialist and Social-Democratic parties in Europe. Kind of why AMLO ditched it. So, can Mancera be trusted? Well, his party is currently aiding and abetting Enrique Peña Nieto’s Pact for Mexico, which is for standardized testing in education, busting unions, privatizing PEMEX, amongst other horrendous ideas.
The people in PRD who are against the Pact for Mexico are not Mancera’s people, but people way further to the left than him (like Martí Batres). Mancera utilized the police to repress the CNTE teacher protests in Mexico City in order to clear the Historic City Center for the Independence Day celebrations. As Paco Ignacio Taibo II has pointed out, he is just a technocrat. He doesn’t stand in solidarity with people, but instead stands above them, dictating to them what he thinks is best. Mancera, like Marcel Ebrard before him (mayor of Mexico from 2006 to 2012; typically considered a leader of PRD’s neoliberal wing), represents the neoliberal plan for Mexico City. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to trust him, although he is not as horrible as Emanuel.
What about JPMorgan Chase? Does anyone even have to talk about this? Of course they are awful. This is the company which caused, through an employee nicknamed the London Whale, a loss of 2 billion dollars. The same company paying a fine for their lack of internal controls. As stated by Better Markets President Dennis Kelleher, “from helping Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme and rigging electricity markets to fraudulently selling more than $33 billion in toxic mortgage securities and ripping off credit card customers, JP Morgan Chase is a virtual one-bank crime spree.” Why anyone would expect them to be pushing anything that aids the great majority of people is beyond me. Instead of having them support joint ventures between public entities, their function should become either public itself or held in common as a resource and say “bye-bye” to James Dimon.
Of course the bankers have their backers in the intelligentsia at the Brookings Institute. This is just a “think-tank” for the elites. It is considered either a “liberal” or “centrist” think-tank, which is typically code for neoliberal and/or “third way” politics. If there is a “free” trade agreement out there, they support it. There is no “humanitarian” war they will not fight with their devotion to the R2P doctrine. And they will never admit folly on a policy like NAFTA. The Brookings Institute is then research in service to power, a power centralized and maintained by the few. It is a supporter of the top-down, “we know what’s best”, “take our structural adjustment pill”, idea of running economies. The abject failure of most of these policies to increase the livelihoods of many of the world’s people should have Brookings shut-down for bad advice, misinformation, and wanton reckless collusion.
The GCI pact is based on furthering ideas solidified in NAFTA. NAFTA which destroyed Mexican agriculture, harmed American labor, allowed goods to flow freely, but served as a motivation to the crazed obsession with “securing our borders”. This is what a global pact is suppose to look like? It seems less like globalization and more like capital accumulation being centralized in the hands of fewer and fewer people. And isn’t this what we have learned to expect. It’s not like this cast of characters has done something different to develop another pattern of action. They go about wrecking people’s lives, because you must realize when JPMorgan Chase is losing money due to fraud, they are harming the economy and making it shed jobs. Or realizing that Emanuel shutting down schools is an attack on children; that Mancera clearing the teachers is an attack on democratic protest; and, that when Brookings pushes repetitively failed policy they secure the ideological framework with which political elites legitimize clubbing us.
So, what can we consider this pact then? It is a further way to begin establishing trade ties that circumvent the local population. It also represents the further urbanization of capital. This urbanization of capital for most of the world has meant moving large populations from rural areas into slums inside and on the periphery of metropolitan areas. There is no reason to believe this will not continue. It is a backdoor “free” trade agreement, which is why the GCI is being so proudly displayed by the typical cast of neoliberal characters.
Mexico City represents 55.5 billion dollars in trade with America, and 1.73 billion dollars of that trade is with Chicago. These pacts will seek to increase that trade, most likely through the same labor suppressing agreements that have been instituted by this group before (except Mancera), as well as through the reduction of regulations on capital mobility.
There are very real ties between Mexico City and Chicago. Chicago is the second-largest concentration of Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans in the United States. In 2000 they represented 1.1 million people in the Chicagoland metropolitan area. However, this pact is not about developing ties between the local people of both cities. It is about developing the business ties, the social network of the rich, globe-trotting class. This is what is further detrimental to the working classes. As this social network solidifies, the ruling elites of sovereign nation-states identify less and less with their population, and more and more with a cosmopolitan business elite. They begin to set the parameters based on their models of “free” trade and the population is completely disregarded.
For now, this was nothing more than a photo-op. But people should be very wary of these agreements and how they develop. With the people and organizations like these running it, you can be sure of a nightmare as it blossoms.
Andrew Smolski is an anarchist sociologist based in Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org