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(en) America, [awfultruth] FTAA: Unveiling NAFTA for the Americas

From Gordon Flett <gflett1@home.com>
Date Tue, 26 Dec 2000 16:48:23 -0500 (EST)

>  http://www.tradewatch.org/FTAA/factsheet.htm
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      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E


 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
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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