The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is perhaps the best and worst decision the United States ever made. By signing the agreement, America put itself in an advantageous economic position for economic growth. However, it came at a high cost for our own citizens.

Twenty-five years ago, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. entered into NAFTA, which eliminated tariffs between the three countries, with the mutual goal of improving each other’s economies. It boosted the economies of all three countries. However, as each country’s economy adapted to the treaty, NAFTA itself failed to do so, and as a result, the trade agreement’s unintended side effects were amplified: loss of American jobs, reduced leverage for union workers, unemployment of local Mexican farmers, and degradation of the Mexican environment and the nation’s laboring population.

NAFTA only increased the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. Because NAFTA eliminated tariffs and allowed companies to move to Mexico and employ its cheaper workforce unharmed, the G.D.P. increased by $20.8 trillion. Yet NAFTA also forced 750,000 U.S. citizens onto unemployment as many automotive, textile, computer, and electrical appliance companies moved to Mexico for cheaper labor. Although wealthy companies increased profits, workers remained stuck with unacceptably low wages, further exacerbating the inequality still facing our society. Admittedly, five million Americans also were newly employed due to increased exports. However, those union workers who either remained or became newly employed lost all leverage at earning higher and fairer wages when labor became drastically cheaper in Mexico due to NAFTA.

By 1999, sixty-five percent of manufacturing companies had threatened to close and move to Mexico, stifling union opposition. As a result, workers’ wages failed to increase, keeping those working Americans in a downward spiral of poor working conditions. NAFTA built an unsurpassable wall between the union workers and their goal of higher wages and humane working conditions. After years of work towards fair pay and humane working conditions, one signature killed their chances.

NAFTA was no better to the Mexican farmers. Because trade was free from tariffs and the labor was much cheaper, American agricultural farmers moved to Mexico, taking jobs from 1.3 million locals. Desperate to generate at least any income, Mexico sided with the U.S. and built the maquiladora program—which enabled American-based companies to receive raw materials in Mexico and export them in finished products, all with low-cost labor and free from tariffs. NAFTA built yet another source of exploitable labor.

Without any benefits, rights or health protections, work days for Mexican natives were 12 hours or longer while women were subject to pregnancy tests as a requirement when applying for employment. NAFTA’s goal was economic prosperity for all three countries, but, instead, companies benefited while the laborer only lost more power.

To further decrease prices of labor while accelerating profits, the U.S. degraded the environment in Mexico. Ruthlessly ignoring the effects, Americans desiccated 630,000 hectares per year, expanding their farms’ profits by employing fertilizers and chemicals for a total of $36 billion in pollution per year.

Overall, NAFTA’s goal of economic growth was a success, but at an unacceptable price to workers. NAFTA’s largest problem is the indirectly encouraged abuse of workers. Adding morally inclusive and adaptable terms that maintain workers’ rights in our ever changing economies would allow NAFTA to be not only successful economically but also humanely.