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News ::
Revisiting the FTAA (english)
21 Oct 2002
It's time to revisit the FTAA and anti-globalization.
This month, over ten million Brazilians voted against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) in an unofficial referendum. Regardless, the Bush administration, with its new “Fast Track” capabilities, is pushing forth with the agreement. Rather than create more economic freedom and equality in the Western Hemisphere, the FTAA will only increase the gap between the rich and poor, magnifying the problems that all nations of the Americas share and further lining the pockets of powerful, multinational corporations at the expense of the working class.
If the United States government must meddle with the economies of poorer nations, it is imperative that it consider the needs of working class people – less it provide fertile ground for the development of hostility towards America. While the proponents of the FTAA claim that it will “create greater prosperity,” the Ecuador- based National Campaign Against the FTAA feels that it will only “bring [their] peoples more social exclusion, more unemployment, more poverty, [and] more debt.” Only two weeks ago, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrètien stated that the “arrogant, self-satisfied, [and] greedy” actions of nations like the United States in the past led to horrific tragedies like the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. Regardless of the fact that in April of 2001, at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, Canada, the leaders of thirty-four North and South American governments claimed that the summit “exists to serve people,” members of the working class were barred from the meeting and debate. In outrage, they protested, and the streets of Quebec City were filled with tear gas from the vicious police response. Such treatment of already disadvantaged people only creates more dissent and hostility towards the United States.
In addition to further hostility towards the United States from foreign nations, the FTAA will reduce the quality of life for the very people it is meant to help. Latin America has been operating under the Structural Adjustment programs of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – which the FTAA is modeled after – for over a decade. Every environmental, labor, and social regulation reviewed since then has been deemed an illegal trade barrier and promptly abolished under threat of legal action. Today, Latin America has a poverty rate higher than it was in 1980. Mexico, eight years into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – the precedent of the FTAA – has record-high poverty rates of seventy percent. Proponents of neo-liberalism easily forget that “free trade” comes with great costs, and the working class of the world usually carries its burden; American corporations flee to nations with little to no environmental or labor standards, further exploiting their people. Due to forced privatization under such agreements, many Latin American countries are allowed only to maintain “the most basic of public service” because they are “so inadequate that the corporations aren’t interested in them.” Exploitation and privatization due to free trade agreements like the FTAA has clearly reduced the quality of Latin and South American lives.
Most importantly, it is vital to note the threat that agreements like the FTAA pose to democracy; as corporate shareholders take over the governing of poor nations, stripping them of their sovereignty, delicate questions of values come into play. While the heads of state that attended the Summit of the Americas claim that they have “strict respect for the democratic system,” the way that they are negotiating the treaty is clearly undemocratic. In fact, the public was not even allowed to see drafts of the FTAA until well after the meeting. For this reason, the working class of the Americas issued a call to action stating that they will fight the FTAA for their “right to sovereignty… [and] democratic… development… [and] an end to militarism and the domination of the United States” over the two continents. No matter how much the proponents of the FTAA herald their support for the democratic process, their actions speak louder than words. The people of the Americas see the secret, closed-door meetings and repression of political dissent surrounding the negotiation of the FTAA as a direct contradiction to the values of democracy. The FTAA is no less than an affront to democracy; it is a plan to further the dominion of multinational corporations over the lives of average people for the benefit of an elite.
If the United States and the proponents of the FTAA and other free trade agreements truly seek more economic and political freedom for all people, they would not be actively creating hostility towards American citizens or seeking the dismantling of democratic institutions and its consequential alienation of the people they protect. When discussing the issue of so-called “free trade,” we often dismiss too easily the views of the very people it affects as illegitimate or uneducated. United States foreign policy might be better believable as humanitarian if it had respect for the sovereignty and voices of the people is supposedly wishes to help.

Works Cited

National Campaign Against the FTAA. “Call to Action.” Stop the FTAA. Available:
http://www.stopftaa.org/new/article.php?id=63 (20 September 2002)

SICE. “Third Summit of the Americas: Declaration of Quebec City.” Foreign Trade Information System. Available:
http://www.sice.org/ftaa/quebec/declara_e.asp (20 September 2002)

Osava, Mario. “10 Million Brazilian Votes against Hemisphere's FTAA.” Yahoo! News. Available:
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/oneworld/20020918/wl_onew (20 September 2002)

Barlow, Maude. “The Free Trade Area of the Americans and the Threat to Social Programs, Environmental Sustainability, and Social Justice in Canada and the Americas.” Fighting the Octopus. Available:
http://www.infoshop.org/octo/actions/ftaa_barlow.html
(20 September 2002)
See also:
http://www.prospecthillproductions.net
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