Free Trade Area of the Americas

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The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) (Spanish: Área de Libre Comercio de América [ALCA], French: Zone de libre-échange de Amérique [ZLÉA], Portuguese: Área de Livre Comércio das Américas [ALCA], Dutch: Vrijhandelszone van Amerika) was a proposed agreement to eliminate or reduce the trade barriers among all countries in the Americas excluding Cuba. In the latest round of negotiations, trade ministers from 34 countries met in Miami, United States, in November 2003 to discuss the proposal.[1] The proposed agreement was an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Opposing the proposal were Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Dominica, and Nicaragua (all of which entered the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas in response), and Mercosur member states. Discussions have faltered over similar points as the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks; developed nations seek expanded trade in services and increased intellectual property rights, while less developed nations seek an end to agricultural subsidies and free trade in agricultural goods. Similar to the WTO talks, Brazil has taken a leadership role among the less developed nations, while the United States has taken a similar role for the developed nations.

Free Trade Area of the Americas began with the Summit of the Americas in Miami on December 11, 1994, but the FTAA came to public attention during the Quebec City Summit of the Americas, held in Canada in 2001, a meeting targeted by massive anti-corporatization and anti-globalization protests. The Miami negotiations in 2003 met similar protests, though perhaps not as large. The last summit was held at Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November 2005, but no agreement on FTAA was reached. Of the 34 countries present at the negotiations, 26 pledged to meet again in 2006 to resume negotiations, but no such meeting took place.

In previous negotiations, the United States has pushed for a single comprehensive agreement to reduce trade barriers for goods, while increasing intellectual property protection. Specific intellectual property protections could include Digital Millennium Copyright Act-style copyright protections, similar to the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Another protection would likely restrict the reimportation or cross-importation of pharmaceuticals, similar to the proposed agreement between the United States and Canada.

Brazil has proposed a measured, three-track approach that calls for a series of bilateral agreements to reduce specific tariffs on goods, and a hemispheric pact on rules of origin and dispute resolution processes. Brazil seeks to omit the more controversial issues from the agreement, leaving them to the WTO.

The location of the FTAA Secretariat was to have been determined in 2005. The contending cities are: Atlanta, Chicago, Galveston, Houston, San Juan, and Miami in the United States; Cancún and Puebla in Mexico; Panama City, Panama; and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. city of Colorado Springs also submitted its candidacy in the early days but subsequently withdrew.[2] Miami, Panama City and Puebla served successively as interim secretariat headquarters during the negotiation process.

The failure of the Mar del Plata summit to set out a comprehensive agenda to keep FTAA alive has meant that there is little chance for a comprehensive trade agreement in the foreseeable future.

Membership[edit]

The following countries are in the plans of the Free Trade Area of the Americas:[3]

Current support and opposition[edit]

A vocal critic of the FTAA was Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who has described it as an "annexation plan" and a "tool of imperialism" for the exploitation of Latin America.[4] As a counterproposal to this initiative, Chávez promoted the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, ALBA), vaguely based on the model of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which makes emphasis on energy and infrastructure agreements that are gradually extended to other areas finally to include the total economic, political and military integration of the member states.[4] Also, Evo Morales of Bolivia has referred to the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas, as "an agreement to legalize the colonization of the Americas".[5]

On the other hand, Honduras and the then presidents of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Argentina, Néstor Kirchner, have stated that they do not oppose the FTAA but they do demand that the agreement provide for the elimination of U.S. agriculture subsidies, the provision of effective access to foreign markets and further consideration towards the needs and sensibilities of its members.[6]

One of the most contentious issues of the treaty proposed by the United States is with concerns to patents and copyrights. Critics claim that if the measures proposed by the United States were implemented and applied this would reduce scientific research in Latin America. On the left-wing Council of Canadians web site, Barlow wrote: "This agreement sets enforceable global rules on patents, copyrights and trademark. It has gone far beyond its initial scope of protecting original inventions or cultural products and now permits the practice of patenting plants and animal forms as well as seeds. It promotes the private rights of corporations over local communities and their genetic heritage and traditional medicines".[7]

On the weekend of April 20, 2001, the 3rd Summit of the Americas was a summit held in Quebec City, Canada. This international meeting was a round of negotiations regarding a proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Current status[edit]

The FTAA missed the targeted deadline of 2005 as planned. This followed the stalling of useful negotiations of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 2005.[8] Over time, some governments not wanting to lose a chance of hemispheric trade expansion moved in the direction of establishing a series of bilateral trade deals. The heads however have planned a future summit called the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2012.[9][10]

Agreements[edit]

There are currently 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere, stretching from Canada to Chile that are standing members of the FTAA.[11] The Implementation of a full multilateral FTAA between all parties would be eased by enlargement of existing agreements. North America, with the exception of Cuba and Haiti (which has participated in economic integration with the Caricom since 2002)[12][13] are almost finished to set up a subcontinental free trade area. At this point Agreements within the Area of the Americas include:

Previous agreements[edit]

Current agreements[edit]

Proposed agreements[edit]

Active negotiations
Negotiations on hold

Security pacts[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Articles and papers[edit]