The proposed free trade agreement between the United States and Mexico is just another scam by the big-money boys.

What they really have in mind is to export American capital and jobs south of the border to take advantage of Mexico's cheap labor and loose laws. What will be exported from Mexico will be products that used to be or should be manufactured in the United States as well as agricultural produce.Neither the Mexican nor the American people will benefit in the long run.

You don't need a Harvard degree to figure out this scam. Mexico is as broke as a ghost, primarily because its elitist government has looted the country. What American products could they buy? They can't even pay back the money the government borrowed and spent (or stole) long ago.

Besides, the Mexican people are probably going to toss out their government in the near future anyway, and any cozy deals President Bush and his pals have made with the ruling elite will go in the toilet.

Another reason to oppose this is that the Japanese will be a big beneficiary, too. They will put plants in Mexico and thus guarantee themselves additional access to the American market in case we ever find trade negotiators honest enough to look out for American interests instead of looking out for good-paying jobs with Japanese firms.

What we have to remember is that money walks but people don't. You can eliminate jobs by shutting down American facilities, hampered as they are by workers who want a decent wage and by environmental and safety laws, and wire the cash over the Rio Grande where Mexicans are so hard up they are glad to get work at any wage under any conditions.

But the Americans whose jobs have flown south with the geese don't conveniently die. They are still around. They still have what Lin Yutang called that bottomless pit - a stomach that has to be filled every day of their lives. They still have families who must be fed. What are they going to do?

Well, the stock answer is move into a higher technological field, which is a crock of unmentionable stuff. Listen, most of us are not smart enough to be computer programmers, plasma physicists or computer engineers. Besides, most of the high-tech jobs are already in Japan.

It's true Mexico needs capital investment, but the impediment to that is not tariff barriers. No, the impediment is a generally corrupt government and so much poverty that political stability is pretty much public relations baloney.

Guaranteeing the moneybags access to the American market is not the way to correct Mexico's capital deficiency. The way to do that is for the Mexican people to get some honest politicians in office who can offer foreign and domestic investors some reasonable assurance they won't get robbed.

Tom Johnson, an American journalist of another era, once said that anytime you don't understand something, look for the financial interests.

Obviously, since Mexico is in no position to buy any great amount of American products, Bush's push for a free trade agreement must have some other purpose. Well, check out the banks Mexico owes money. Check out the megacorps who love cheap labor more than a wino loves wine. Check out the plans, already being talked about, for the Export-Import Bank (read taxpayers) to guarantee American oil businesses' investments in Mexico.

What free-trade ideologues cannot seem to grasp is that no American business or farm can compete against a stacked deck. How can American farmers committed to complying with our environmental laws compete against Mexican produce that can be grown without any regard for the environment? How can an American manufacturer of anything compete against a guy who only pays his workers $4 a day?

Sure, Bush and Mexican President Carlos Salinas get along just great. They are two elitist peas out of the same arrogant pod.