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Free Trade Area of the Americas No. 350

Amended 2001
Reaffirmed 2002
Amended 2003
Amended 2004
Amended 2005
Reaffirmed 2006
Reaffirmed 2007

The FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), a trade agreement currently under negotiation, is an expansion of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), to include all 34 countries of North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, except Cuba. In other words, the FTAA would open the entire western hemisphere to so-called "free trade." Corporate opportunities would expand into new and more lucrative sectors, at the expense of human, civil and political rights, labor standards and environmental protections.

NAFTA has failed to live up to its promise for workers in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. U.S. workers who have lost jobs due to NAFTA now earn substantially less pay in their new jobs. Since NAFTA was ratified in 1994, alarming numbers of Mexican farmers have lost their source of income due to the dumping of cheap U.S. corn onto Mexico's agricultural market. With passage of the FTAA, workers in Mexico would be pitted against an even more desperate labor force in poverty-stricken countries such as Haiti and Guatemala.

Deliberate inattention to environmental standards in international "free trade" agreements has already had devastating results. In the maquiladora zones along the U.S.-Mexico border, increased pollution and improper disposal of chemical wastes have dramatically raised rates of hepatitis, birth defects and cancer. Pressure to export goods and swell corporate profits has led to massive clear-cutting of forests, overuse of soil, and the extinction of endangered species in many parts of the world. The FTAA protects corporate interests to profit at the expense of clean air, pure water, and the preservation of ecosystems.

Like NAFTA's Chapter 11 and similar provisions in the FTAA directly impede a nation's ability to enforce its own local, state, and federal laws applying to labor, environmental, and human rights standards and business regulations. Foreign corporations merely need to assert that laws impinge on their ability to make profits and constitute "barriers to trade" in order to take legal action against governments in WTO tribunals.

The proposed FTAA agreement encourages deregulation and corporate privatization of essential services, such as the provision of water, electricity, waste removal, postal services, health care, education, and transportation. These services constitute 75-80% of the U.S. economy. Foreign corporations would thus compete on equal playing fields for projects funded by tax dollars. Essentially, foreign corporations would have greater rights than those of citizens and local companies in all participating countries nations, as they already are in NAFTA and CAFTA countries.

The FTAA would expand monopoly patent rules. A company with a patent in one participating country would be given rights to sell their product in all 34 countries, often to the exclusion of competing products. Pharmaceutical companies could cut off consumer access to more affordable generic drugs, even those used in treatment of catastrophic illnesses such as AIDS and tuberculosis. Patent monopolies also have serious implications for other industries, such as software and electronics.

Through a process of unconscionable railroading through Congress and misrepresentation of consequences, the Bush Administration succeeded in reinstating Fast Track (or "trade promotion authority"). Congress is presented with trade agreements negotiated by the Administration and required to vote them "up" or "down," without amendments and after limited time for debate.

In January of 2005, FTAA failed to meet the deadline for negotiations and completion.

Based on the above assessment, Americans for Democratic Action:

  1. urges the repeal of trade promotion authority (Fast Track);
  2. urges that mandatory social, labor, and environmental standards be included in the proposed FTAA and all other trade agreements;
  3. advocates provisions within FTAA legislation to require companies engaging in foreign direct investment to maintain strong environmental and labor rights protections, as well as engage in trade only with countries that adheres to international human rights standards;
  4. calls for increased transparency of FTAA negotiations; for- all WTO court proceedings to be open to the public, and for provisions for legal representation for the parties involved. Further, the financial where-with-all of the victim, regardless of the country, should not determine the filing of complaints;
  5. calls for elimination in all trade agreements of language similar to the NAFTA Chapter 11 component, which allows corporate lawsuits to override a nation's laws, so the interest of corporate profits trump democratically enacted laws;
  6. urges the US to insist that the countries in the Western Hemisphere bring their labor laws into compliance with the core labor standards of the ILO before negotiations are concluded, thereby ensuring that all segments of the countries' populations will share in any benefits of the trade agreements.
  7. will help educate the people of the US about the consequences of current US trade policy and the positive results that could be achieved through inclusion of enforceable labor rights, environmental protections and popular participation in future trade negotiations.

 

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No. 350

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