Lesson Plan: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

20th Anniversary of NAFTA

Former U.S. trade representatives from the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations talked about the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993, the trade deal aimed to pull together the economies of the U.S., Canada and Mexico.


The North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect on January 1, 1994. It created a free trade zone that reduced tariffs and encourage trade between Canada, Mexico and the United States. NAFTA has had a major impact on the three countries but the benefits of NAFTA have been heavily debated since its inception. This lesson looks at the history of the agreement, its benefits and drawbacks and ways to improve it.


  • WARM-UP:

    Have the students answer the following warm-up question before beginning class.

    • What do you think "free trade" means?

    Either explain or have the students define each of the following vocabulary words:

    • Tariff
    • Trade Deficit
    • Import
    • Export

    As a class, have the students view the following three videos and answer the questions listed below. Review the answers with the class. Students can also use the NAFTA Handout (Google Doc).

    Video Clip- North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (2:58)

    • Explain how NAFTA went into effect.
    • The economies of which countries were joined together by this agreement?
    • What was accomplished by joining these economies?
    • According to Ms. Hills, why was this agreement important?
    • Describe Canada’s current trade relationship with the U.S.
    • Explain Mexico’s current trade relationship with the U.S.

    Video Clip- The History of NAFTA (1:09)

    • Explain the background and the process in which NAFTA was created.
    • Why was NAFTA created?

    Video Clip- North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act Signing (4:20)

    • What does President Clinton say are the goals of NAFTA?
    • According to President Clinton how has the world changed? How did NAFTA address these changes?

    Review the answers with the class to identify and address misconceptions.


    Individually or as a class, students will view the video clips listed below and take notes on arguments for NAFTA, arguments against NAFTA and ways that NAFTA could have been improvement. They can use the chart on the NAFTA handout to organize their notes.

    Video Clip- Goals and Outcomes of NAFTA (3:46)

    Video Clip- Arizona Senator Jeff Flake on NAFTA (2:03)

    Video Clip- NAFTA and Trade Deficits (3:22)

    Video Clip- The Effects and Future of NAFTA (4:28)

    Video Clip: Newt Gingrich on NAFTA


    After viewing the videos on the costs and benefits of NAFTA, discuss the arguments for and against NAFTA. View the following video on the renegotiation of NAFTA and the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Based on this and the other videos in this lesson, have the students write an essay (or similar culminating activity) that answers the question below.

    • Should the United States have renegotiated NAFTA and created the USMCA? Support your arguments with information from the videos.

    Letter to the Editor- Put yourself in the perspective of someone in either Mexico, Canada or the United States and write a letter to the editor about how NAFTA has impacted you. Include who you are and how specifically NAFTA has impacted your life.

    Additional Writing Prompts-

    • How would the last two decades be different if Congress did not pass NAFTA in 1993?
    • Should the United State create additional free trade agreements with other countries?

Additional Resources


  • Competition
  • Economics
  • Export
  • Globalization
  • Imports
  • Labor
  • Market
  • North American Free Trade Agreement
  • Outsourcing
  • Pension
  • Political Parties
  • Procurement
  • Ratify
  • Surplus
  • Tariffs
  • Trade Barriers
  • Trade Deficit
  • Trade Imbalances
  • Trade Representatives
  • United States-mexico-canada Agreement
  • Wage


Economics & Financial LiteracyForeign PolicyGeography


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