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Unveiling FTAA (Trade Watch)
Thu, 07 Dec 2000 23:57:27 -0800

*note: also on the tradewatch website is draft text from the section on Services


Unveiling "NAFTA for the Americas"


What is "FTAA"?

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is the formal name given to an expansion of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) that would include nearly all of the countries in the western hemisphere. This massive NAFTA expansion is currently being negotiated in secret by trade ministers from a total of 34 nations in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. The goal of the FTAA is to impose the failed NAFTA model of increased privatization and deregulation hemisphere-wide. Imposition of these rules would empower corporations to constrain governments from setting standards for public health and safety, to safeguard their workers, and to ensure corporations do not pollute the communities in which they operate. Effectively, these rules would handcuff governments' public interest policymaking and enhance corporate control at the expense of citizens throughout the Americas. FTAA would deepen the negative effects of NAFTA we've seen in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. over the past seven years and expand NAFTA's damage to the other 31 countries involved. The FTAA would intensify NAFTA's "race to the bottom": under FTAA, exploited workers in Mexico could be leveraged against even more desperate workers in Haiti, Guatemala or Brazil by companies seeking tariff-free access back into U.S. markets. A quick look at NAFTA's legacy reveals disastrous consequences:

Who is involved in the FTAA negotiations, and how did it get started?

High on their NAFTA victory, U.S. officials organized a Summit of the Americas in Miami in December 1994. Trade ministers from every country in the western hemisphere (except for Cuba) agreed to launch negotiations to establish a hemispheric free trade deal. After the "Miami Summit," however, little more was done on FTAA until the "Santiago Summit" in Chile in April 1998. However, at this second summit the 34 nations set up a Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), consisting of vice ministers of trade from every country and headed by Dr. Adalberto Rodriguez Giavarini of Argentina. Negotiators also agreed on a structure of nine working groups to deal with the major areas they agreed to cover under FTAA: agriculture, services, investment, dispute settlement, intellectual property rights, subsides and anti-dumping, competition policy, government procurement and market access. You would never know it from news reports, but since late 1999, the working groups have been meeting every few months to lay out their countries' positions on these issues and try to develop treaty language.

As with the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), many Members of Congress have no idea this is even going on. Congress has set no goals for the U.S.'s participation in these talks and has not delegated to the Executive branch its Constitutional role of setting the terms of international commerce. However, a variety of corporate committees do advise the U.S. negotiators; under the trade advisory committee system, over 500 corporate representatives have security clearance and access to FTAA NAFTA expansion documents. Organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), collectively known as the "Tripartite Committee," also provide direction. Early on, non-governmental civil society organizations (NGOs) demanded working groups on democratic governance, labor and human rights, consumer safety and the environment. These were rejected, and instead a Committee of Government Representatives on Civil Society was established to represent the views of civil society to the TNC. Yet this committee is little more than a mail in-box. It has no mechanism to incorporate civil society concerns and suggestions into the actual negotiations, so these are mainly ignored.

The U.S. is represented by the U.S. Trade Representative's office (USTR), headed by Charlene Barshefsky as of November 2000. The lead USTR negotiator on FTAA is Peter Allgeier.

What will FTAA's practical effects be?

Because negotiations are occurring in secret and no texts have been made publicly available, we cannot know the details of the draft text. However, our conversations with the USTR have given us some clues about what to expect once a final agreement is unveiled — in other words, once it's too late to change it!

Essential Social Services Endangered: The FTAA will contain a series of commitments to "liberalize" services, which is much like the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) within the WTO. "Services" is a broad category that includes education, health care, environmental services (which can include access to water!), energy, postal services and anything else we pay for that isn't a physical object. Possible effects of the FTAA services agreement include:

What is the current status of the FTAA negotiations?

All the negotiating groups have held meetings at two to three month intervals throughout 2000. Negotiators have laid out the positions of their governments on the nine core issues. As of fall 2000, they are in the process of consolidating proposed text to find points of agreement among the governments. A complete "bracketed" (draft) text will be ready in December 2000. Vice ministerial level meetings on FTAA NAFTA expansion will begin in early 2001. The next ministerial-level Summit of the Americas is planned for Quebec City, Canada on April 18-22, 2001, at which negotiators will start building a whole text. The agreement is to be complete and implemented in 2005.


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Aaron Koleszar <>

The 2000 election has further solidified the grasp of corporate capitalism on the governance of Canada. In what amounts to a virtual dictatorship, the arrogant right wing (Neo)Liberals are poised to continue the wholesale sell-off of Canada to mostly American corporations, as well as tax cuts for the rich, at the expense of the environment, the poor, aboriginals, and other minorities. The "official" opposition - the newly garbed Reform party - will not oppose the NeoLiberal cuts and tax-breaks. They will only force the (Neo)Liberals further to the right.

The lopsided election results demonstrate the futility of trying to change our society through traditional electoral politics while we're living in a capitalist economic system where the public is overwhelmingly influenced by mainstream corporate media, and the government is overwhelmingly controlled by transnational corporations.

So it is up to us to build the REAL opposition. Opposition in our communities, opposition in the streets. We must build the movement that will place power in the hands of the people instead of the elites. There are many more people being exploited than doing the exploiting. We are very powerful - all we need to do is realize it and get organized!

One important step will be the moblization against the FTAA between now and April.
See you in Quebec!

Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC) (English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Portugese)

resisting the FTAA and capitalist globalization
mobilizing for Quebec City, April 2001
creating alternatives


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resisting the FTAA and capitalist globalization
mobilizing for Quebec City, April 2001
creating alternatives
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