The NAFTA-based FTAA would allow and even require the following: Disintegration of labor rights and environmental laws, privatizing services including health, water, education & telecommunication, and would patent all life forms, as well as preventing regulation of Genetically modified food. Discover the extent to which an adopted FTAA program would go to put in place a far and wide reaching “free trade” agreement which clearly upholds commodification of existence above all else. Global Exchange’s FTAA primer, within.
During the last three years, representatives from 34 countries have been working in secret on plans to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is another example of the free-market fundamentalism that has created a global race-to-the-bottom threatening the environment, families’ livelihoods, human rights, and democracy. Once again, a sweeping “free trade” agreement is in the works that puts commercial interests above all other values.
1. The FTAA Expands a Proven Disaster
The FTAA is essentially an expansion of NAFTA. But NAFTA has proven a nightmare for working families and the environment. A look at NAFTA’s legacy shows why these kind of “free trade” agreements should be opposed. Working families suffer: In the US, almost 400,000 jobs have been lost since NAFTA, with workers’ new jobs paying, on average, only 77 percent of the wages of their earlier employment; in Mexico since NAFTA, one million more Mexicans earn less than the minimum wage, and 8 million families have slipped from the middle class into poverty. The environment suffers: In the maquiladora zones along the US-Mexico border, the increased pollution and the improper disposal of chemical wastes has dramatically increased rates of hepatitis and birth defects. NAFTA should be repealed, not expanded.
2. The Agreement Is Being Written in Secret
Despite repeated calls for the open and democratic development of trade policy, the FTAA negotiations have been conducted in secret. Discussions around the FTAA began in 1994 when US trade officials, emboldened by the passage of NAFTA, gathered trade ministers from across the hemisphere in Miami for a summit. Talks heated up in 1998, when trade ministers from the hemisphere met again in Santiago, Chile. Since then, negotiations have been taking place every few months, and the first working draft–with countries’ positions already set–will be ready in April 2001 in Quebec City, Canada. Although Congress hasn’t set goals for US participation, hundreds of corporate representatives are involved in the process, advising the US negotiators and helping to write the rules. At the same time, however, citizens groups, and even the United Nations, have not been able to incorporate their concerns and suggestions into the talks.
3. The Agreement Will Undermine Labor Rights and Cause Further Job Loss
The NAFTA experience demonstrates how basic labor rights and the interests of working families are eroded by “free trade” agreements that lack enforceable labor protections. Corporations move high-paying jobs to countries with lower wages and bust unionization drives with threats to transfer production abroad. According to a study conducted under the auspices of NAFTA’s labor side agreement, 90 percent of 400 plant closings or threatened plant closings in the US in a five-year period occurred illegally in the face of a union organizing drive. This “race-to-the-bottom” will accelerate under FTAA as corporations pit exploited workers in Mexico against even more desperate workers in countries such as Haiti and Guatemala.
4. The Agreement Will Exacerbate Environmental Destruction
The export-driven growth model promoted by “free trade” agreements and the policies of the World Bank and the IMF have destroyed ecosystems around the world. Under this unsustainable model, many countries in the Global South cut down their forests, overfish their waters and exploit other natural resources to earn hard currency. Since NAFTA, 15 US wood product companies have set up operations in Mexico, and logging there has increased dramatically. In the Mexican state of Guerrero, 40 percent of the forests have been lost in the last eight years, and massive clearcutting has led to soil erosion and habitat destruction.
5. The Agreement Will Put Lives at Risk
The FTAA would expand NAFTA’s rules on monopoly patents to the whole hemisphere. This means that companies with a patent in one country will have the exclusive right to market their products throughout the hemisphere. Intellectual property rules are especially important for the pharmaceutical industry, which uses the regulations to stop countries from producing less expensive versions of name brand drugs. Currently Brazil is one of the top manufacturers of the types of generic drugs that are essential for the majority of the world’s poor who can’t afford drugs produced by US companies. If expanded intellectual property laws prevent the Brazilian government from making life-saving drugs, the AIDS crisis and tuberculosis epidemics will worsen, and people around the world will suffer.
6. The Agreement Will Lead to Privatization of Essential Services
The FTAA is expected to contain commitments to privatize services such as education, health care, and energy and water utilities. Such deregulation would especially harm working class communities and communities of color. In some countries, these privatizations are already occurring, and those least able to pay for vital services are the ones who suffer the most. When Bolivia privatized its water utility, water rates increased 200 percent, leading to riots that resulted in six deaths.
7. The Agreement Will Provide a Backdoor for the MAI
The FTAA may provide a back door for establishing in the Western Hemisphere provisions of the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI), a kind of “investors’ rights” treaty defeated by citizens in 1998. Already, the US trade representative has said the FTAA will include provisions for “investor-to-state” lawsuits. These allow corporations to sue governments for compensation if they feel that any government action, including the enforcement of public health and safety laws, cuts into their profits. Such lawsuits could be used to dilute US laws that promote local businesses.
8. The Agreement Will Spread the Use of GMOs
US trade negotiators are trying to force other countries to accept genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But environmental groups warn that these technologies haven’t been adequately tested, and food security experts say GMOs could increase hunger in poor nations. Farmers have traditionally saved their seeds from year to year, but as multinational corporations patent GM seeds these farmers will be forced to pay for seeds, pushing them further into dependency.
9. The Agreement Will Increase Poverty and Inequality
“Free trade” is not working for the majority of the world. During the most recent period of rapid growth in global trade and investment–1960 to 1998–inequality worsened internationally and within countries. Without debt cancellation and rules to curtail rampant capital speculation, countries in the Global South will remain dependent on the Global North, inequality will increase, and the hope of achieving sustainable development will be farther off.
10. There Are Proven Alternatives
Policy makers and pundits often try to convince us that corporate globalization is an inevitable phenomenon. In fact, the current economic processes known as “globalization” have been defined and driven by a very small number of corporations. Now people around the world are creating an alternative grassroots globalization. Citizens’ groups from across the Western Hemisphere have written an “Alternative Agreement for the Americas” that offers a picture of what socially responsible and environmentally sustainable commerce would look like. You can find the document on the Global Exchange website.
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To learn more about the FTAA and what you can do to stop it, contact Juliette Beck at 800-497-1994 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: infomat 101
News Service: Global Exchange