1) Indigenous Assembly Condemns FTAA (IPS)
2) Bolivia: Bechtel Strikes Back (Pacific News Service)
3) El Salvador: History Victory in Labor Movement (Don White, LA CISPES)
4) FTAA: Outside Halls of Power, Many Fear Free Trade (New York Times)
5) Trade meeting in flux Talks marred by street protests (Miami Herald)
6) Latin American Countries Skeptical of US Trade Agreement (New York Times)
7) POST-QUTIO FTAA MINISTERIAL DEBRIEF
1) Indigenous Assembly Condemns FTAA
QUITO, Nov 1 (IPS) - The Continental Assembly of Peoples of the Americas, meeting Friday in the Ecuadorian capital, exhorted the region's governments to reject the Free Trade Area of the Americas, saying it will harm their cultures and the environment and deplete natural resources.
In the final declaration of the indigenous meet, titled "Mandate from the Peoples", the delegates set new dates for "cultural-territorial resistance and affirmation" to fight the hemisphere-wide FTAA.
The indigenous activists see the economic approach of the FTAA as the same that "was implemented in 1492, when the pillaging of our wealth and of our natural resources began," said Evo Morales, who was a presidential candidate in Bolivia's elections in June.
"What they are seeking now is simply to deepen that model, which is based on free imports and is a policy aimed at concentrating wealth in the hands of a few," the Indian leader told IPS.
The Continental Assembly of Peoples was held in Quito in parallel to the seventh FTAA ministerial-level conference, which drew foreign affairs and trade ministers from the 34 countries that are involved in creating the free trade zone -- all nations of North and South America and the Caribbean, except Cuba.
The preparatory meetings that took place this week were surrounded by massive street protests, with violent police crackdowns dispersing some of the demonstrations.
Morales, who took part in the Assembly of Peoples, said the promoters of the FTAA are not interested in environmental conservation, in contrast to the native communities of the Americas, whose cultures are based on living in harmony with nature.
"The economy should be subordinate to the preservation of the planet," a fundamental value of "the indigenous movements, whether Quechua, Aymara, Guaraní, Aztec, Quiche or Mapuche, because we live in a direct relationship with Mother Earth," he said.
"In the world of the indigenous peoples, we seek to produce for the common good, in the context of reciprocity and solidarity, something the FTAA completely cancels out," Morales added.
It is proposals like those of the FTAA that brought crisis to Latin America and have triggered the "resistance of Indians and of social movements," and are fomenting its expansion, said the former presidential candidate, who lost the Bolivian elections by just 1.5 percent of the vote.
Despite their rejection of FTAA, the indigenous communities maintain open dialogue aimed at integrating the countries of Latin America, as has always been proposed by the region's ethnic and social movements, he said.
The final document of the Assembly, signed by indigenous, environmental, peasant and trade union organisations from more than 20 countries, asks the governments of the Americas what "integration" they are talking about, if their economic policies "are disintegrating and eliminating" the original communities of the area encompassed by the FTAA.
"What integration are you proposing if the basis of your approach is competition, the desire to accumulate and obtain profit at any price, inequality, disrespect for peoples and cultures, and the aim to unite us all in the market and in consumerism," said the indigenous delegates gathered in Quito.
"What integration are you proclaiming if the first and fundamental interrelation of every human being is with Mother Earth and you fail to realise it," states the declaration.
Leonidas Iza, president of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), warned that implementing the FTAA could mean the privatisation of such basic services as water and the invasion of genetically modified agricultural products.
"Inequality will bring with it the destruction of the ancestral cultures and the ethical values that continue to subsist, and will even end up dismantling the nation states and turn them into incorporated colonies," stated Iza.
The indigenous leaders who participated in Friday's Assembly reaffirmed the "autonomy and free territorial, cultural, political and governmental determination" of their peoples, vindicating their "territories and the collective right to biodiversity."
"We indigenous peoples do not permit patents or other private property rights over life and traditional knowledge, because for us they are of a collective nature, inalienable and inter- generational, and they are linked to the notion of our ancestral territories."
"As such, we indigenous peoples have decided not to compete in the system of the globalised market," stated Felipe Quishpe, of Bolivia.
"We create and maintain terraced farmland, we farm without chemicals, we enrich the soils by using complementary crops. With this approach we both maintain genetic diversity and strengthen the agricultural system against plagues and the imponderables of nature," he said.
Quishpe added that many indigenous communities implement "renewable, non-polluting forms of generating energy, and are exploring other renewable energy technologies, like bio-gas and solar energy."
The final declaration of the Assembly of Peoples concludes with the proposal for a referendum across the Americas so that citizens can express whether or not they support the creation of the Canada- to-Tierra del Fuego free trade zone.
U.S. sociologist James Petras, who attended the Assembly as an observer, told IPS he is convinced that his country is promoting the FTAA because there are still economic areas in Latin America that cannot completely control, such as the petroleum industry in Venezuela and other economic sectors in Ecuador and Brazil.
"The big illusion of the FTAA for Latin America is to achieve access to a market of 800 million people, but that dream is based on the United States favouring true free trade, which it does not," said the sociologist. (END/2002)
By Jim Shultz, Pacific News Service
November 11, 2002
Sometime in the next few weeks, behind closed doors at the World Bank
headquarters in Washington, D.C., panelists in a secret trade court will
decide if the people of South America's poorest country will have to pay $25
million to one of the world's most wealthy corporations.
The stakes in this case -- Bechtel Corporation vs. Bolivia -- are high,
not just for the poor families who may ultimately pay the bill. The principle
of local control in an era of unchecked economic globalization is at risk.
The Bechtel vs. Bolivia case is round two of a fight over something basic:
water. Two years ago Bechtel took over the public water system of Bolivia's
third-largest city, Cochabamba, and within weeks raised rates by as much as
200 percent, far beyond what families there could afford. When the company
refused to lower rates, the public revolted. Widespread protests eventually
forced Bechtel to leave.
In November 2001, Bechtel filed a demand of $25 million against Bolivia,
seeking to recover the money it says it invested, as well as a portion of the
profits the corporation expected to make.
"We're not looking for a windfall from Bolivia. We're looking to recover
costs," explains Michael Curtin, the head of Bechtel's Bolivian water
But the company didn't invest anything close to $25 million in Bolivia
few months it operated there. Furthermore, the $25 million prize Bechtel now
seeks is equal to what the corporation earns in half a day. For the people of
Bolivia, that sum is the annual cost for hiring 3,000 rural doctors, or
12,000 public school teachers, or hooking up 125,000 families who don't have
access to the public water system.
More importantly, Bechtel vs. Bolivia could portend future global battles.
Trade officials from 34 countries are currently working to draft a "Free
Trade Act of the Americas" (FTAA), a new economic constitution which would
rule from Alaska to Argentina. President Bush and other supporters hope to
see the pact put in place by 2006. One of the FTAA's most controversial
provisions is the establishment of a system of secret trade courts, in which
multinational corporations can sue local, state and national governments --
behind closed doors -- to overturn laws or extract payment for actions that
block their access to local markets.
The prototype for these secret courts is the very one where Bechtel has
brought its case against Bolivia: the World Bank's International Centre for
the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
Under the FTAA, secret courts like these could force the repeal of
environmental laws in California, health regulations in New Hampshire and
worker protections in Venezuela -- all in the name of knocking down barriers
to trade. For these reasons, the Bechtel vs. Bolivia case has become an
international symbol and rallying point.
Last August more than 300 citizen groups from 41 different countries --
environmentalists, peasants, labor leaders, women's groups, indigenous
leaders and others -- joined to file an International Citizens Petition with
the World Bank, demanding that the doors of its secret trade court be opened
to public scrutiny and participation.
"The actions of Bechtel in Bolivia left a city of more than 600,000
turmoil for four months," the groups wrote. A young boy died, hundreds were
injured, and public access to water was threatened. The international group
protested that the case was about more than the calm transfer of assets from
one economic institution to another. "It is a matter of deep importance to
far more than the two parties who now have formal access to the process,"
Under World Bank rules the process is so secret that Bank officials won't
when the tribunal in the case will meet, won't reveal who testifies before it
or what they say, and won't let any members of the media or public in the
room. Bechtel has already lied on the public record about its Bolivian water
rate increases. It isn't likely to be any more honest behind closed doors.
The World Bank's role is also suspect. Though it represents itself as a
neutral judge, World Bank officials directly appointed the president of the
tribunal hearing the case. And it was the Bank that forced Cochabamba's water
into Bechtel's hands to begin with. Two years prior to the water deal, Bank
officials directly threatened to withhold $600 million in international debt
relief if Bolivia didn't privatize Cochabamba's public water system.
Secrecy serves privilege and lies. Public participation and public scrutiny
are instruments of democracy and truth. In choosing closed doors, Bechtel and
the World Bank have made clear which method they prefer. Now the public must
demand that the rules of globalization be debated and implemented in the
light of day. Bechtel vs. Bolivia is exactly where that battle should begin.
Jim Shultz is executive director of The Democracy Center, lives in
Cochabamba, Bolivia, and is the author of "The Democracy Owners' Manual"
(Rutgers University Press).
FIGHT TO PREVENT PRIVATIZATION IS VICTORIOUS!
CISPES SENDS CONGRATULATIONS AND HEARTFELT SOLIDARITY
TO THE POPULAR MOVEMENT AND FMLN IN EL SALVADOR; A
GIGANTIC VICTORY IS REALIZED FOLLOWING MILITANT STRIKE
The Committee In Solidarity With The People of El Salvador
(CISPES) is celebrating along with the militant unionists and health
workers of El Salvador following their stunning victory yesterday.
An historic vote in the National Assembly of El Salvador ended
the drive to privatize the health system of El Salvador. The courageous
months long strike and campaign by the health care workers---
and hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans---has ended in victory.
Only the total dedication of the unions and the people---at great
personal sacrifice---defeated the ARENA party privatization
proposal. CISPES salutes the people of El Salvador for their militant
sturggle. [Grateful appreciation to the CIS in San
Salvador for portions of this post.]
Yesterday, Decree 1024, which guarantees a national health
system within the Social Security System and prevents privitization
or consessions of any of its services, was passed in the legislative
assembly with 55 of 84 votes; only the ARENA Deputies voted
against it. This represents a major victory for the Salvadoran
people, the medical profession, SIMETRISSS, the Medical College,
the National Medical Association, and STISSS, the union of
hospital workers. This will also set a precident in preventing the
privitization of the national Health Care System as represented by
the Ministry of Health, which was next on the list for
The Social Security Hospital System, ISSS, represents about 15%
of the population that has formal employment. The Ministry of
Health should cover about 80% of the population without formal
employment, especially in the rural areas of the country. (See CIS
bulletin for more details).
The same decree 1024 passed on October 17th, but President
Flores threatened to veto it. Because there was such a strong
mobilization in support of the decree, he then said he would not
veto it, but using a play on words and trying to manipulate the
public omitted saying that he would also not be signing it into law.
His third option was to send it back to the assembly with his
observations. He chose the third option sending back the same
decree with his observations, which basically violated the spirit of
the accord and again allowed for privitization.
Only the FMLN maintained loyalty throughout the struggle to the
medical professions, trade union and social movement's position.
The PCN pledged to pass the decree 1024 as well. The PDC and
the Renovator movement (with the exception of Jose Marinero)
were siding with the president and big business....until the last
moment, 24 hours before the Legislative Assembly Plenary. The
leadership of the PDC then obligated its deputies to vote in favor of
the decree, and the smaller parties followed. Without a doubt the
constant grassroots mobilization was the decisive factor in favor of
the decree. Yesterday the social movement again blocked major
arteries throughout the country and the medical professionals and
hospital workers marched to the legislative assembly.
The strike will continue however until the decree 1024 is published
as an official law, the fired workers are re-installed, hospital
workers receive their paychecks for the time they were on strike
and the medical associations and trade union at the the Social
Security Hospital are part of a negotiating table for health care
reforms. The strikers are also calling for the destitution of the
director of the Social Security Hospital who backs the
QUITO, Ecuador -- Two heated debates about free trade took place here last
week, yet they were so different they might as well have been on separate
The most visible one was at a meeting of trade ministers from the United States and 33 other countries, who tried to hammer out a road map for negotiating a free-trade zone from Canada to Argentina. The other was led by ordinary citizens.
Inside a heavily fortified Marriott Hotel, the ministers were deeply divided about practical issues but shared many basic assumptions: more trade is better than less; open borders are better than closed; cross-border investment is healthy.
The United States wants more access to Latin American markets for services like insurance, telecommunications and even health care. Latin American countries want the United States to drop its barriers and subsidies for agricultural products, including sugar, cotton and soybeans.
Outside the ministerial talks, the issues were different. Ecuador's large indigenous groups, which have considerable political influence here, are convinced that there is no such thing as a good deal. Some say a hemispheric agreement will give carte blanche to foreign oil and mining companies in the Amazon rain forest. Others fret that farmers will be wiped out by foreign imports.
"We cannot compete with them," said Ermel Chavez, head of a group in northern Ecuador called Front for the Defense of the Amazon. "We will be become nothing more than consumers."
Many of the indigenous protesters here are supported and prodded by antiglobalization groups based in the United States.
Public Citizen, an advocacy group based in Washington, helped organize "reality tours" to demonstrate the impact of foreign oil companies; Global Exchange, a group based in San Francisco that opposes the free-trade talks, promoted interviews with indigenous leaders from Ecuador and Columbia; the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the most adamant and powerful American opponent of free-trade deals, had top representatives here as well.
That said, there was no mistaking the level of genuine popular unease here and in other countries. ALCA, the Spanish acronym for Free Trade Agreement for the Americas, has become a big topic in local newspapers and among ordinary people.
"Our companies are not efficient enough to compete," said Tom*s Iglesias, a retired accountant who now drives a taxi part time.
Ordinary Ecuadoreans have experienced both the benefits and costs of greater global integration. In a bid to halt inflation, the government adopted the American dollar as its own national currency nearly two years ago. That policy stabilized prices. But because of the dollar's high value, imports from other countries soared and exports stagnated.
Almost every country in Latin America has been hit by trade shocks. Colombia, once one of the world's biggest exporters of coffee, is now far behind Vietnam. Argentina, once a major wheat exporter, has been forced to switch over to soybeans.
Various currency crises, meanwhile, have all but obliterated a free-trade zone that unites Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. The regional trade group began to crumble when Brazil decided in 1999 to let its currency decline in value. That almost devastated Argentine exports to Brazil because the Argentine government kept its peso locked one-to-one with the American dollar. Regional trade imploded this year when the Argentine government defaulted on foreign debt worth about $140 billion and the peso collapsed.
DESPITE the disruptions, there are good reasons to believe that more free trade and openness ultimately offer more security.
The two Latin American countries that have so far weathered the current global economic slowdown - Mexico and Chile - are also the most open. Mexico, of course, has been part of the North American Free Trade Agreement for eight years. Chile has arduously liberalized its economy for years and is now close to signing a bilateral free-trade deal with the United States.
The problem is that a pan-American free-trade zone would cover more than trade. It would also affect ground rules for doing business, like sanitary regulations for food imports and enforcement of labor and environmental rules. Many Latin Americans fear that the United States wants to impose its system on them, and they are correct.
But it is worth remembering that the United States has taken its own lumps: when California decided to phase out the use of a gasoline additive containing methanol, the Canadian manufacturer of the additive sued, citing investor-protection measures in Nafta. The United States government now wants to make it harder for companies to make such claims.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
Ecuadorean security forces battled protesters Thursday but the standoff failed to disrupt the work of trade ministers trying to hammer out a regional trade pact.
An estimated 10,000 anti-free trade protesters were not the only voices clamoring for an audience in Quito as trade officials from 34 nations met as part of negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas. Representatives of a business forum, of civil society groups and the Hemispheric Social Alliance handed their recommendations over to the government officials Thursday, just one day before the minister was to issue a Declaration of Quito.
Police and army troops, some with dogs, cordoned off blocks of the city surrounding the Marriott Hotel, where the trade ministers were meeting under tight security. Troops stood by while protesters from Latin America and the United States waved banners and danced on armored vehicles. They then fired tear gas on protesters, dispersing them.
"The FTAA is not seeking a true free market, but the opening up of Latin American markets for the United States," said Juan Jine, a leader of the Guatemalan Coordinator of Indigenous and Rural People.
Ensconced behind several lines of police in the Marriott, trade ministers
made no reference to the street protests, which included farmers who had
marched for several days from Colombia and Peru. But there were other shadows
hanging over the talks, which are showing the strain of carrying out trade
negotiations over tariffs and investment
rules in a world where trade agreements have become politicized.
Experts and observers had few expectations of big announcements or breakthroughs at the Quito meeting, as the worsening economic problems of the region further dampened the atmosphere.
Even business leaders -- boosters of the process from the moment the goal of negotiating a free trade area from Canada to Chile was floated -- were soured on some of the proposals. With new presidents set to take office in Brazil and Ecuador, Argentina's economy in collapse and Venezuela's government led by President Hugo Chavez calling for a slowdown in the pace of talks, at least four key players in the talks could not guarantee that future governments would keep past commitments.
Business leaders from different countries clashed at the Business Forum of the Americas and many questioned whether their recommendations were being heard. "This process is exhausted," said Colombian lawyer Gabriel Ibarra, who had worked on a panel about competitive policy. "What is the point of coming here if no one listens to us?"
No one expects trade talks to run smoothly, but there were signs of little and big strains.
Guayaquil industrial leaders refused to join the Ecuadorean business coalition because they rejected having a joint position for Andean countries. After the Andean countries of Boliva, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela had agreed in principal to negotiate tariff reductions as a block, Colombia backed down and agreed to lower tariff rates favored by the United States.
But by far the biggest disagreement was over the issue of U.S. agricultural subsidies. For Brazil, which runs a trade deficit in manufacturing and machinery, the only way to increase exports is through agriculture -- exporting citrus and soy to the United States.
But representatives from nearly all the countries launched into heated discussions of U.S. farm subsidies.
Asked what would happen if there was no agreement on this thorny agricultural issue, Roberto Nesto, president of Peru's National Society of Industries, warned: "Then we would have a major problem."
Some participants believe the distance between the sides is so great that the sensitive agricultural issue will be moved to the World Trade Organization, where trade negotiators are trying to work out a simultaneous reduction in European, Japanese and U.S. farm subsidies.
This is not a solution favored by the Latin American countries, but U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has already insisted that if the FTAA is stalled, the United States will push forward with bilateral talks, including ones with Chile, Central America and even bilateral discussions with Argentina.
The trade agreement is not only about lowering import duties over a five-, 10- or even 15-year period. Patterned after the North American Free Trade Agreement, the FTAA would also establish rules protecting foreign investment, privatize many government services and do away with local laws about government purchases.
In an attempt to highlight momentum in the midst of considerable skepticism, Zoellick called a news conference to announce a Hemispheric Technical Assistance program to help small countries prepare for opening their borders to imports.
But the program, with U.S. funding to increase from $100 million to $140 million next year, falls far short of more ambitious programs that Latin American leaders are demanding to fight poverty.
(c) Copyright 2002, The Miami Herald. All Rights Reserved.
UITO, Ecuador, Oct. 31 ¯ The United States, trying to shore up support for a pan-American free-trade zone while many Latin American countries are in economic turmoil, began an energetic effort here today to persuade leaders that a deal would be to their advantage.
On the eve of talks involving 34 countries, President Bush signed a proclamation that would expand the number of products that Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia can export to the United States without paying tariffs.
The administration also smoothed over a tax dispute between Ecuador and Occidental Petroleum in an effort to soothe critics who argue that a free-trade deal will simply give American oil corporations more opportunities to run roughshod over Amazon rain forests.
The United States trade representative, Robert B. Zoellick, announced plans to seek up to $140 million from Congress to help countries defray administrative costs of a trade deal.
"We have to keep our eye on the big picture," Mr. Zoellick said. "This is not just about completing an agreement, or even about expanding trade. It is about creating more opportunities and more jobs."
But neither the enticements nor the comforting talk could dispel skepticism about American intentions. The talks here are occurring while at least three countries are in political and economic convulsions. Argentina, still trying to recover from its financial collapse, is struggling to avoid default on loans from the World Bank and is preparing for spring elections.
In Brazil, the president-elect, Luiz In*cio Lula da Silva, has in the past denounced a "free-trade agreement for the Americas" as tantamount to the "annexation" of Brazil by the United States.
And here in Ecuador, though the government generally supports a free-trade deal, its leaders know the idea is largely unpopular.
"I am an eternal optimist, but I have to share the concerns that have been raised by some or even all of the other countries in Latin America," said Heinz Moeller, Ecuador's foreign minister. "The crucial issue for us is agricultural protectionism in the United States, which is something we will all have to resolve together."
Many larger countries, especially Brazil, have insisted that they will not accept an agreement that does not also include big reductions in American tariffs and subsidies for cash crops like sugar and soybeans.
The United States wants to deal with those issues outside the framework of a pan-American deal, in global trade negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organization that are to occur more or less simultaneously with those on a "Free Trade Agreement of the Americas."
"Everything needs to be on the table," said Carlos Ruckkauf, Argentina's foreign minister. "To have a valid free-trade agreement for all the Americas, we cannot have negotiations where we divide into two groups."
On Friday, trade ministers will try to agree on a schedule and outline for negotiations over the next two years. The meetings will not determine the fate of a hemispheric agreement, but they will signalwhether a consensus is possible.
Uneasiness about a free-trade agreement is widespread in many countries. In contrast to most Americans, who have paid little attention it, the issue has aroused adamant opposition here from groups worried about losing control over their land, as well as farmers and small business people.
Below please find analysis and articles about the recent 7th Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Ministieral, which took place in Quito Ecuador on November 1, 2002. For more info on the Ministerial (including copies of the Parlimentarians Declaration Against the FTAA and the Peoples of the Americas Quito Declaration) and on the FTAA in general, check out www.tradewatch.org/ftaa.
1) Analysis: What the Heck Happened in Quito: The Nitty Gritty (Timi Gerson,
2) Analysis: The U.S. Returns Empty-Handed from FTAA Talks in Quito (Victor Menotti, IFG)
3) Article : Latin American Countries Skeptical of U.S. Trade Agreement (New York Times)
4) Article: Trade meeting in flux Talks marred by street protests (Miami Herald)
5) Article: Outside Halls of Power, Many Fear Free Trade (New York Times)
1) What the Heck Happened in Quito: The Nitty Gritty (Timi Gerson, Public Citizen)
2 weeks ago I joined thousands of people from throughout the Americas to protest the proposed 31 country NAFTA expansion called the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) during the 7th FTAA Ministerial Meeting held on November 1 in Quito, Ecuador. While the CEOs of the Americas Business Forum and the national trade ministers holed up in the Marriot and Swiss hotels respectively, representatives of indigenous movements, womens groups, labor unions, environmental networks, campesino organizations, students and progressive think tanks participated in an alternative forum "Another Americas is Possible" and in vibrant public demonstrations, direct actions and marches denouncing both the concrete proposals of the FTAA agreement as well as the secretive and illegitmate process of the negotiations (for eyewitness accounts of the resistance on the ground in Quito see the FoodFirst website - www.foodfirst.org - as well as U.S. activist Justin Ruben's article on http://www.americaspolicy.org/citizenaction/focus/0211quitoact.html )
In terms of the nitty gritty inside the Ministerial, it is clear that in addition to the enormous civil society pressure, opposition to the FTAA now includes the actual governments of many Latin American countries who are not convinced of the benefits of the NAFTA model. The political landscape of South America particularly has changed dramatically with the election of Lula da Silva in Brazil (who campaigned on the theme that the FTAA was a "policy of annexation, not integration"). In addition, President Chavez of Venezuela sent a letter to the Ministers protesting the secrecy of the process and the rushed timeline (the Venezuelan negotiators tried to push the FTAA implemtation deadline back to 2010, but in the end were not able to). Finally, the leading Ecuadorian presidential candidate, Lucio Guiterrez, has voiced serious reservations about the FTAA (Ecuadorian elections are the end of November).
Even the countries where left-leaning parties are not in power take issue with U.S. in terms of market access in agriculture, not to mention their ire at the subsidies passed by Congress in the U.S. Farm Bill last year. The agriculture negotiations, along with negotiations of U.S. trade law rememdies (like anti-dumping laws), are the biggest bones of contention in the overall FTAA process. A telling sign of the impasse of the FTAA talks is the fact that the Ministerial meeting ended two hours early, with the final press conference being held at 4:30pm instead of the planned 6:30pm. The United States Trade Representative (USTR) Bob Zoellickis trying to cover the disaster of the attempted ag negotiations in Quito by saying that it doesn't matter because all of the agricultural issues will be dealt with at the next WTO Ministerial (scheduled for September of 2003 in Cancun, Mexico).
One point on which there does seem to be widespread agreement among the FTAA country negotiators is that, as laid out in the official Quito Ministerial Declaration (see www.ftaa-alca.org) they "reject the use of labor or environmental standards for protectionist purposes. Most Ministers recognize that environmental and labor issues should not be utilized as conditionalities nor subject to disciplines, the non-compliance of which can be subejct to trade restirctions or sanctions." In other words, forget any requirements to uphold the International Labour Organization's core labor rights or compliance with any Multinational Environmental Agreements (MEAS) as conditions for trade agreements. What this means: You can put nice language in about labor rights and environmental sustainability, but any kind of enforcement (specifically sanctions - the kind of enforcement that is used for the comercial provisions of the agreement and which actually - egads! - works) is verboten.
The USTR is touting its "victories" in Quito, but a quick look at the seven objectives they "achieved" shows that they are mainly things that had already been agreed upon, such as the fact that the U.S. and Brazil will co-chair the FTAA negotations from now until the 2005 deadline (For a fuller analysis of this, please see teh analysis of Victor Menotti of the International Forum on Globalization - IFG - below and on the web at: http://www.citizen.org/documents/What%20Really%20Happened%20in%20Quito%20-%20Victor%20Menotti.pdf )
Three concrete items every FTAA activist should know:
1) 2003 MINISTERIAL: The next FTAA Trade Ministers Ministerial will be
held in Miami, Florida in the fourth quarter of 2003 (i.e. in the fall - no
exact date as of yet, although it seems likely to be later in the fall -
October or November - after the September WTO Cancun Ministerial);
2) DRAFT TEXT: The draft text of the FTAA is available on the official
website - thanks to the pressure brought to bear by civil society (during the
Ministerial, more than 1,000 faxes were sent to USTR and Congressional
representatives demanding the release of the text from the Public Citizen
website alone!) - www.ftaa-alca.org . HOWEVER, like the draft released in 2001, it is a
"scrubbed" version missing the crucial information of which countries
support which positions. The text is heavily bracketed (brackets denote
disagreements between negotiators), but there is no way to know which
countries are disagreeing or what the positions of each are. Several
groups are working on analysis comparing the new FTAA draft with the 2001 version
- the Hemispheric Social Alliance (HSA) (www.asc-hsa.org) plans to
publish a series of updated analysis on the web by the end of January 2003.
Individual groups are working on analysis of issues of particular concern to
them - for example, Essential Action and Doctors Without Borders have both
done quick analysis of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) chapters and
its implications on access to medicines and found that these are no
substantive differences from their earlier analysis on the IPR chapter (see
3) TIMELINES: Timelines were agreed to in terms of making bilateral
"requests and offers" for market access in each of the nine negotiating
group areas (agriculture, services, government procurement, etc). This is
the process by which governments send requests to other government ("we'd
like you to put your education sector on the chopping block" for example),
to which other governments respond with "offers" ("we'll put higher ed on
the block, but not primary education."). The "request" phase lasts from
December 15. 2002 - February 15, 2003 and the offer phase from February 15
- June 15, 2003. The final outcome of these bilateral negotitions on what
countries are giving up to whom is part of the prep-work to advance the
agreement and clear contentious issues out of the way BEFORE the Miami
Ministerial. It is interesting to note that the "requests and offers" for
the services agreement in the WTO (GATS) is also taking place on a parallel
track (see www.tradewatch.org/wto/gats), with final offers due in March of
2003. Both "requests and offers" in the FTAA and the WTO are highly
secretive processes so that the populace doesn't actually know what their
government is giving up until its already too late (sound familiar,
What is clear post-Quito is that the momentum internationally (despite the dismal outcome of the U.S. elections ) is in our favor. Probably in part because of this, the decision was made to have the next FTAA Ministieral on "safe" ground in Miami -- where, not conincidentally, the whole process began in 1994 as part of the neoliberal post-NAFTA victory party. It is our unique responsibility to take the massive resistance the FTAA has encountered in the South and bring it home in the North. It is up to us to make sure that we've done our jobs this year to build the public awareness, political accountability and glocal campaigns to prove next fall that the "free-trade consensus" is broken where it was born.
2) The U.S. Returns Empty-Handed from FTAA Talks in Quito (Victor Menotti, International Forum on Globalization - IFG)
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) is declaring total victory at the just-concluded ministerial meeting in Quito to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas (www.ustr.gov/new/ftaa-quito-seven.pdf).
But a closer examination of its so-called "seven key objectives" for Quito reveals that the forces of corporate globalization gained very little, if anything. Nearly all of the "accomplishments" are already-agreed-to procedures and schedules for the negotiations. Others are mere proposals that must be fought out in national debates. Some are even bows to mounting pressure from the hemisphere's civil society, which filled the streets of Quito in opposition to FTAA.
What USTR does not explain is the stiff opposition it faced from Latin American governments, who have seen their economies spiral downward under the experiment of free trade, and felt an inevitable backlash from their populations who are rejecting further liberalization of their economies. Best known is the Brazilian people's recent election of Lula, who openly campaigned against FTAA.
USTR failed to establish even provisional agreements among trade ministers on the controversial issues of liberalizing investment or services, strengthening corporate protections for intellectual property, or lowering export subsidies for agriculture, which are the real sticking points in FTAA. Anticipating great opposition in Quito, USTR head Ambassador Robert Zoellick set low expectations and is now trying to hail them as victories for free trade. Civil society in the Americas should read USTR's "Trade Facts" as a clear sign that we are winning!
Below are USTR's "seven key objectives" for Quito, followed by an explanation of what they truly mean:
1. Launched Hemispheric Cooperation Program (HCP)
Zoellick's announcement is simply a recasting of President George W. Bush's proposed Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which he first floated at the UN Financing for Development conference last year in Monterey, Mexico. If President Bush can convince Congress to give him the money (a fight which civil society must be heard in this debate), the US National Security Council will oversee the disbursal of MCA/HCP funds to poor countries so that they can "increase their capacity" to participate in trade talks. HCP means that US taxpayers will foot the bill for helping the hemisphere's poorest nations to better understand the terms by which the FTAA will dismantle their economies. USTR perceives Latin Americas' rejection of free trade as a misunderstanding of its true benefits. MCA/HCP aims to "correct" the perception so that the free trade agenda can move forward.
2. Energized Market Access Negotiations.
The so-called energy came when trade ministers "confirmed a detailed schedule for exchanging offers and requests." This negotiating schedule was generally understood from earlier meetings and was only reaffirmed in Quito. Regardless, negotiations will be complicated by some nations rightful unwillingness to lower their tariffs at a time when the US is raising its own.
3. Assumed - along with Brazil - the chairmanship of FTAA.
Five years ago, the US and Brazil were assigned to "assume the chairmanship" of the FTAA for the final push before the deadline in 2005. That's because they are the hemispheres two main powers and will have the biggest differences between them in negotiation positions to be resolved. Differences between the two have been the main obstacle to finalizing FTAA. Their "assuming" the responsibly simply means its come down to crunch time in the negotiations.
4. Named strong chairs for FTAA Negotiating Groups and Committees.
Another already-agreed-to measure. While the appointment of key people on certain committees is designed to expedite negotiations, failure to do so would have signaled a complete collapse of the FTAA process.
5. Released second draft of FTAA text.
Only under intense pressure from civil society throughout the hemisphere did trade ministers relent to making public the current draft text of FTAA. If true openness in the negotiating process had been an objective of USTR's, they would have incorporated input they have been receiving from civil society and encouraged other governments to do the same. The only "public hearing" on FTAA held in Washington, DC by the USTR was announced with only ten days advance notice, making it practically impossible for any meaningful public participation.
6. Consulted with business community.
Consulting with business is an every day activity for USTR, which has an elaborate bureaucracy of business advisors:www.ustr.gov/outreach/advise.shtml. It is not clear why USTR would project what is their normal routine as an "accomplished objective" other than the fact that they have nothing else to show as a sign of success.
7. Consulted with civil society representatives.
With tens of thousands of protesters shutting down the country and its capital Quito, government delegations could not avoid facing civil society, even though USTR led the effort to prevent any face to face meetings. People who tried to present USTR with recommendations, but were turned away repeatedly, sometimes violently (see www.indymedia.org). Ambassador Zoellick finally agreed when Ecuadorian security forces began siding with the protesters in their demand for a meeting with ministers. For the whole, incredible story on why groups in Quito denouncing the consultation process with civil society, see: http://www.foodfirst.org/progs/global/trade/quito2002/2002-11-01-update.php
In conclusion, USTR's "Quito consensus" was meaningless, and only confirms the growing power of peoples' movements who are becoming more informed and more mobilized around confronting global free trade.
Inside US Trade reports that "Trade ministers of the Western Hemisphere have agreed to negotiating principles that virtually ensure that talks on liberalizing agriculture in a Free Trade Area of the Americas will stagnate over the next year, informed sources said, as countries linked their willingness to make agricultural concessions in the FTAA to progress in World Trade Organization talks to cut agriculture subsidies." WTO, they say, is where a breakthrough will emerge because it's the global body that involves other countries (Japan, Europe, India, China) whose participation is necessary for any "real deal" that addresses the complexities of export subsidies, market access, anti-dumping, and quantitative restrictions. The thrust toward WTO does NOT imply that civil society organizing around FTAA should cease. Indeed, we must build on our efforts to reorient organizing energy toward the fight when WTO meets September 2003. So, see you in Cancun!