Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the
Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)
from Stop FTAA website http://www.stopftaa.org/
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repealed, not expanded.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
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
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
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.
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.