Lynn Nottage

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North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Term Analysis

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a 1994 agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico that created a free-trade zone in North America. NAFTA removed barriers to trade and invest—such as government restrictions and tariffs—with the goal of increasing North America’s viability in the global economy. However, NAFTA enabled U.S. industries to outsource labor to Mexico, which resulted in widespread wage cuts and job loss in the Rust Belt region and other U.S. manufacturing hotspots. Reading, Pennsylvania (where Sweat takes place), is one such Rust Belt city that suffered after NAFTA was passed. As such, characters like Stan and Cynthia are cynical about jobs at the local steel mill being sent over to Mexico, and Jason, Tracey, and Jessie take this sentiment so far as to espouse racism toward Latinx people (like Oscar) in general.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Quotes in Sweat

The Sweat quotes below are all either spoken by North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or refer to North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

STAN: Says he got wind that they were gonna cut back his line at the plant. Couldn’t handle the stress.

CYNTHIA: That rumor’s been flying around for months. Nobody’s going anywhere.

STAN: Okay, you keep telling yourself that, but you saw what happened over at Clemmons Technologies. No one saw that coming. Right? You could wake up tomorrow and all your jobs are in Mexico, whatever, it’s this NAFTA bullshit—

Related Characters: Stan (speaker), Cynthia (speaker), Freddy Brunner, Tracey
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 19-20
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 5 Quotes

TRACEY: […] It was back when if you worked with your hands people respected you for it. It was a gift. But now, there’s nothing on Penn. You go into buildings, the walls are covered over with sheetrock, the wood painted gray, or some ungodly color, and it just makes me sad. It makes me…whatever.

OSCAR: You okay?

TRACEY: Listen, that piece of paper you’re holding is an insult, it don’t mean anything, Olstead’s isn’t for you.

Related Characters: Tracey (speaker), Oscar (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
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North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Term Timeline in Sweat

The timeline below shows where the term North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) appears in Sweat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
...Stan warns that people’s jobs could be outsourced to Mexico at any moment because of NAFTA. Tracey tries to make a joke out of this, but Stan cautions that it’s unwise... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
...afford this “burden.” This outrages Jessie and the others, but Cynthia explains that due to NAFTA, Olstead’s could simply move the factory to Mexico, where workers will happily work longer hours... (full context)