updated October 22, 2002

Stop the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)!

What is the FTAA?

Materials and links

What to do now

Summary of Fast Track

Who opposed Fast Track?

Contact us

On campus?

Work for responsible trade with the Sierra Student Coalition

Selected news articles


The next Ministerial meeting of the FTAA - 34 countries in an expansion of NAFNo FTAA.gifTA from the Arctic to Argentina - will take place beginning October 31 in Quito, Ecuador. Visit the Global Trade Watch website, www.tradewatch.org, for updated information both on the mobilizations and solidarity actions around the Quito Ministerial and general information on the FTAA.

What is the FTAA? And why should you care?

  • The President and big business interests want to expand NAFTA to the rest of the Western Hemisphere. The proposed trade pact is called the Free Trade Area of Americas or FTAA.
  • The FTAA is an international business deal, disguised as a trade agreement. It would create the world's largest free trade zone--affecting 34 nations, 650 million people and $9 trillion in capital. (That means the playing field is supposedly level in the entire area.) It would put U.S. farmers in competition with farmers in Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, and 30 other countries. It would force U.S. workers to compete against workers in all these countries for the same jobs. Many more U.S. jobs that have NOT moved to Mexico will move further south. And good-paying jobs in Mexico will also head south, leaving behind a polluted border on the Rio Grande.
  • The FTAA is being negotiated in secret. Initiated in 1994 by the 34 countries of North and South America (excluding Cuba), governments have included the business sector in FTAA talks every step of the way, but have kept the text of the trade pact secret from the public and their elected representatives.
  • Advocates say that free trade is the solution to poverty and inequality, and increases prosperity for everyone. But seven years of NAFTA has shown what we can expect. This is one of the strongest possible arguments against the FTAA. Over 700,000 U.S. jobs have been certified as lost due to NAFTA. Threat of plant closure and relocation is used in over 50% of union disputes in the U.S. Real wages have declined as productivity increased. Poor environmental and public health conditions worsen along the U.S.-Mexico border. For the first time, the U.S. trade surplus with Mexico has become an $18 billion deficit. This will be multiplied many times if Congress accepts the FTAA.

How is the FTAA different from NAFTA?

  • The FTAA is not final, but the draft text is clear on many points:
  • The FTAA involves all countries in the hemisphere (except Cuba), not just three countries (US, Canada, Mexico).
  • It will not have the 'side agreements' that are in NAFTA which allow some labor and environment protections.
  • It has 'services' provisions that are not in NAFTA. These provisions would require the participating national governments to give foreign corporations equal access to compete for government services if domestic businesses also provide those services. Examples: education (domestic businesses provide private schools and universities), libraries, postal services, health services, government monitoring and inspection, construction, water, and many more. Unlike NAFTA, service workers, particularly government employees, will lose their jobs as they compete with nonunionized workers employed by foreign companies, and as their jobs go south.
  • Under NAFTA's Chapter 11 provisions, the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments have been forced to pay foreign corporations hundreds of millions of dollars because local laws stopped the companies from making profits due to environmental regulations. If the U.S. accepts the FTAA, its Chapter 11 provisions will devastate the environment across the hemisphere. NAFTA's Chapter 11 has already 'chilled' proposed legislation on the state and local levels. Chapter 11 is a direct attack on democracy and sovereignty. In fact, some Republicans oppose the FTAA for this reason!

What is the status of the FTAA?

  • The participating nations are still writing the detailed text. They want it to be fully implemented by 2005.

What is Fast Track and why is it important?

  • Fast Track (also called "Trade Promotion Authority") is a bill that Congress approved in summer 2002. It gives the President authority to negotiate trade pacts with other countries without any input from Congress. This authority will last for five years beginning in 2002, with a two-year extension. Congress could only vote YES or NO on trade pacts.
  • Under the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Congress has the responsibility for regulating foreign trade. The purpose of Fast Track is to transfer most of Congress's responsibility to the President and the people he appoints in the Executive Branch.
  • The President and big business interests want Fast Track authority primarily to expand NAFTA to the rest of the Western Hemisphere. The proposed trade pact is called the Free Trade Area of Americas or FTAA.
  • Because the Fast Track Bill passed, Congress will now only be able to vote YES or NO on the complete FTAA. Many will be reluctant to turn down the whole package for the sake of a few missing environmental or labor standards. The FTAA will be proposed to Congress in 2003 or 2004.
  • The Fast Track vote was very close. Late on Friday night, July 26, 2002, just before the August recess when everyone was eager to go home, the House of Representatives PASSED the compromise version of Fast Track 215-212 (see how your Rep. voted on this version of Fast Track). On August 1, just before the Senate took off for their August recess, they passed the compromise version of Fast Track 64-34. Mr. Bush signed the bill. See how your Rep. voted in the earlier version of Fast Track in December 2001.
  • If your representative or Senator voted FOR Fast Track, they have sold out the American worker and the planetary environment, and are endorsing an unsustainable global food system.

What to do now

  • Hold your legislators accountable. If they voted for Fast Track, write to them and tell them you are disappointed they sold out our country. Consider voting against them. If they voted against Fast Track, thank them.
  • See www.tradewatch.org.
  • Actions to stop the FTAA, from Global Exchange.
  • If you are a service worker, learn about how the FTAA will hurt service jobs.
  • Get involved in the anti-FTAA movement. Contact us for activities in your area.

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Resources and Links

See first:

1. Ten Reasons to Oppose the FTAA. www.globalexchange.org/ftaa/topten.html

2. "The Threat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas," authoritative analysis by Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians and International Forum on Globalization. Download from www.canadians.org

3.
"The Last Frontier," Maude Barlow's clear and chilling description of the GATS agreement in the WTO (= the services agreement in the FTAA).

4. "The Future of Nation States," Maude Barlow's speech at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, including a very clear description of the FTAA. Download from
www.canadians.org

5.
FTAA Primer. Very good 20-page booklet, Central American focus.

6. "America's Plan for the Americas," 28-page critical analysis of the US government's negotiating positions on the FTAA. Download from
www.art-us.org/Docs/apa.pdf

7. "Alternatives for the Americas: Building a People's Hemispheric Agreement." Download from
www.web.ca/~comfront/alts4americas/eng/eng.html or see summary at www.art-us.org

Who opposed Fast Track?

A coalition of 134 groups, including AFL-CIO, AFSCME (and most major labor unions), National Education Association, National Farmers Union, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club. Also, the National Association of Counties, National Association of Towns and Townships, National Conference of State Legislatures, National League of Cities and United States Conference of Mayors demanded that the Senate include the "Kerry amendment" in Fast Track to protect local sovereignty. The Senate failed to do so.


Elements of the compromise Fast Track bill that passed the House and Senate and was signed by Mr. Bush

  • The bill has language that forbids enforcement of workers' rights and environmental protection in future fast-tracked trade agreements like the FTAA.
  • "NAFTA Chapter 11": The conference report gives tacit approval to the bad NAFTA model!
  • The bill strips out provisions in the Senate version of Fast Track to protect U.S. trade laws. The compromise bill includes only non-binding language that the US Trade Representative should not override these laws in negotiations.
  • The bill greatly decreased the amount of assistance provided in the Senate version to workers laid off or hurt when their jobs move overseas due to "free trade" deals.
  • The bill strips out a clause that would have required countries receiving these special trade benefits to NOT have policies which discriminate against women.

Selected articles on NAFTA, FTAA and trade

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