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Free Trade Agreement of the Americas

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  • Tom Condit
    forwarded message. note that there will be demos in Quebec City April 20-22 and a labor anti-FTAA conference in Mexico City. plenty to coordiante with. -- Tom
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2001
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      forwarded message. note that there will be demos in Quebec City April 20-22
      and a labor anti-FTAA conference in Mexico City. plenty to coordiante
      with. -- Tom Condit <tomcondit@...>

      "getmelissa@..." <getmelissa@...>
      wrote: http://www.tradewatch.org/FTAA/factsheet.htm

      UNVEILING “NAFTA FOR THE AMERICAS”

      NAFTA + WTO = FTAA

      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:

      An estimated 395,000 U.S. jobs have been lost since NAFTA as companies
      relocated to Mexico to take advantage of the weaker labor standards. These
      workers usually find jobs with less security and wages that are about 77%
      of what they originally had.

      The U.S. trade surplus with Mexico has become a deficit for the first time.
      Despite promises of increased economic development throughout Mexico, only
      the border region has seen intensified industrial activity. Yet even this
      small “gain” has not brought prosperity. Over one million more Mexicans
      work for less than the minimum wage of $3.40 per day today than before
      NAFTA, and during the NAFTA period, eight million Mexicans have fallen from
      the middle class into poverty.

      In addition, the increase of border industry has created worsening
      environmental and public health threats in the area. Every day, 44 tons of
      hazardous waste are disposed of improperly. In this time, birth defects
      have increased dramatically. In the first year of NAFTA in one Texas border
      county, 15 babies were born without brains—an unprecedented 36% increase
      from the year before! Along the border, the occurrence of some diseases,
      including hepatitis, is two or three times the national average, due to
      lack of sewage treatment and safe drinking water.

      Although it’s hard to imagine that anyone would push for more of a failed
      model like this, what little we do know about FTAA is that is likely to
      look quite a bit like NAFTA. In fact, some FTAA texts are reported to be
      literally based on NAFTA, with additional countries added in. We know what
      results to expect!

      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, subsidies 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:

      Removal of national licensing standards for medical, legal and other key
      professionals, allowing doctors licensed in one country to practice in any
      country, even if their level of training or technological sophistication is
      different; privatization of public schools and prisons in the U.S., opening
      the door to greater corporate control, corruption and the temptation to cut
      critical corners (such as medical care for inmates or upkeep of safe school
      facilities) in the interests of improving profit margins; and privatization
      of postal services transferring U.S. Postal Service functions to a few
      delivery companies like FedEx, which could then send postal rates through
      the roof.

      Investment and a Backdoor MAI:

      FTAA NAFTA expansion provides a potential “back door” for the Multilateral
      Agreement on Investment (MAI), through negotiations focused on investments
      and in the financial services sector. We didn’t call the MAI “NAFTA on
      steroids” for nothing! MAIN is based on NAFTA and direct NAFTA expansion is
      just another way to impose these rules. Like in NAFTA’s Chapter 11, the
      USTR says that FTAA will include “investor-to-state” suits. These allow
      corporations to sue governments directly for the removal of standards or
      laws designed to protect public health and safety, which may cost the
      corporations a little more in operating costs. In other words, the FTAA
      would provide a hemispheric “regulatory takings” clause that explicitly
      values corporate profits over human costs. NAFTA cases that set a likely
      precedent for FTAA actions under this provision include:

      The Canadian funeral home chain Loewen Group used NAFTA investor
      protections to sue the U.S. government for $750 million in cash damages
      after a Mississippi court found Loewen guilty of malicious and fraudulent
      practices that unfairly targeted a local small business. (NAFTA permits
      companies to sue governments over rulings or regulations that may
      potentially limit their profits.) Loewen argues that the very existence of
      the state court system violates its NAFTA rights.

      The U.S.-based Ethyl Corporation forced Canada to pay $13 million in
      damages and drop its ban on the dangerous gasoline additive MMT, a known
      toxin that attacks the human nervous system. Other regulations protecting
      public health and the environment remain open for attack under NAFTA and FTAA.

      In a similar case, U.S.-based Metalclad Corp. sued a Mexican state to allow
      a toxic waste disposal site, claiming that the environmental zoning law
      forbidding the dump constituted an effective seizure of the company’s
      property ­ a seizure that, under the property rights extended by NAFTA (and
      to be perpetuated in FTAA), requires that the offending government
      compensate the company.

      Food, Agriculture & GMOs:

      The U.S. is trying to force all countries to accept biotechnology and
      genetically modified (GM) foods in which unregulated U.S.-based
      corporations have taken a lead. Yet food security organizations all over
      the world agree that these technologies will increase hunger in poor
      nations. Being forced to buy expensive patented seeds every season, rather
      than saving and planting their own, will force traditional subsistence
      farmers in the developing world into dependency on transnational
      corporations and closer to the brink of starvation. If the U.S. position
      wins out, FTAA will promote the interests of biotech and agribusiness
      giants like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill and Monsanto over the
      interests of hungry people in developing nations.

      Intellectual Property Rights (IPR):

      The U.S. is trying to expand NAFTA’s corporate protectionism rules on
      patents to the whole hemisphere. These rules give a company with a patent
      in one country the monopoly marketing rights to the item throughout the
      region. These rules are enforced with cash fines and criminal penalties,
      making these rules even harsher than the WTO IPR rules. These rules have
      been used as justification for pharmaceutical companies to quash compulsory
      licensing mechanisms to allow competitor companies to manufacture a drug in
      exchange for a fee for “renting” the patent. This monopoly control allows
      pharmaceutical corporations to keep drug prices high and block production
      of generic versions of life-saving drugs, which spells disaster for the ill
      and impoverished, especially in developing nations.

      These rules also allow companies to “bioprospect” and lock down patents for
      traditional medicines that are considered “traditional knowledge,”
      effectively robbing indigenous people of their cultural heritage to fatten
      corporate wallets.

      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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