Free Trade Area of the Americas No. 350
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:
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