FTAA: Launched in 1994, at the First Summit of the Americas held in Miami, when the US president invited 33 heads of government – all except Cuba – to create a common agenda for the future of the Americas.
The top priority on this agenda was free trade and the American-wide expansion of the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement, also known by its acronym in English, NAFTA) experience that includes Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
Known as FTAA by AbbreviationFinder.org, The Free Trade Area of the Americas is a neoliberal agreement. Thanks to the opposition and resistance of the peoples, the FTAA has not yet entered into force (which is why the United States is imposing it through free trade agreements by region or country by country). But we cannot neglect ourselves, because it is a priority for large transnational companies and for the US government, which is why they are working every day to implement it.
Ideas behind the FTAA
The FTAA is an expansion of the other neoliberal agreements: NAFTA, NAFTA-USA, Plan Puebla Panama, and the World Trade Organization. The values of all these agreements are the same. All, including the FTAA, only value the profits of big companies and investors. They protect and guarantee these profits while violating human rights, the environment, the sovereignty of peoples, and democracy.
Interests of the FTAA
34 countries should be included in that block, covering a territory that goes from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. The execution of that project would obviously have a huge impact on the lives of the 800 million people who live on this continent. However, many of us never heard of its existence, for many years the outcome of the negotiations was kept secret and not even the parliamentarians of the different countries have been informed, much less consulted.
As of the launch of the FTAA, a complicated and tough negotiation process that has lasted 10 years began, centered on the annual meetings held by the economy ministers of the countries participating in the process of constitution of the trade bloc. Other complementary issues, for example at the political and military levels, are part of these negotiations.
The goal of the US government and its fans was to implement the FTAA in all countries of the continent, except Cuba, from January of 2005, but successive disagreements in the negotiations do doubt that this plan can be carried out under the terms and with the initially conceived depth.
The creation of the FTAA, to the same as the failed Multilateral Agreement on Investment and Round the Millennium of the World Organization of Trade (boycotted by thousands of activists in the city of Seattle in November of 1999) are part of a global liberalization agenda of the trade that has had, where it has been applied, to large transnational corporations as big winners, at the expense of the vast majority of the population, the environment, and social equity.
- Generation of international agreements that limit the ability of national governments to act on their own economy, environment and society.
- Creation of supranational commercial rules that limit the capacity of action and control of national governments over the activities of investors.
- Transnational corporations intend to use trade agreements, and the threat of capital emigration, to force countries to lower their standards of labor, environmental, health and safety protection. – To attract investment, governments must reduce corporate wage and tax costs to a minimum.
Debt and finance
- The banks want the IMF and the World Bank to continue applying structural adjustment programs in indebted countries to guarantee the payment of interest on debts that they will never be able to pay off. Structural adjustment programs force countries to cut social and economic programs to pay interest on debt to foreign creditors.
- Corporations seek to limit government action to regulate speculative capital flows in their countries.
- Large agricultural corporations seek larger markets not only for traditional crops, but also for genetically modified foods, which make farmers dependent for seeds, fertilizers and pesticides (punishing small producers around the world). Latin American and Caribbean countries will have to face competition in their own national markets from North American agricultural exporters who, in addition to the abysmal differences in technology and productivity, are covered by a government subsidy of billions of dollars annually.
Effects of the FTAA
The easiest way to understand the effects the FTAA would have is to examine what has happened in Mexico under NAFTA. All of these effects have occurred in Mexico under NAFTA and would occur throughout the Americas under FTAA.
- Open borders. Countries can no longer protect their small producers and farmers by putting up barriers to cheap imports. These changes have already destroyed more than 1.5 million peasant jobs in Mexico.
- Elimination of tariffs. Mexico has stopped receiving millions of dollars for not collecting taxes on northern products, money that can be invested in the development of the country.
- Health, education, water, roads, ports, airports, electricity, natural resources, and others will be sold to large companies, in a large “shopping list.” The expenses of the services increase and, at the same time, the profits of the companies.
- Change in laws. Countries are obliged to modify their constitutions so as not to contradict and endanger the interests of large corporations.
- Elimination of subsidies. While Latin America is forced to eliminate subsidies, the agricultural sector of the United States receives 10,100 million dollars a year in subsidies, sending the economy of Latin America into bankruptcy.
- The violation of cultural rights. Corporations seize indigenous peoples’ knowledge and lands, and turn them into profits.
- Strong protections and rights for investors. Under NAFTA, countries cannot put conditions on foreign investment for the benefit of the people. Additionally, companies can sue national governments for profit losses caused by any national law.
- Loss of food sovereignty. Cheap imports destroy the country’s ability to produce the food its people need. See the NAFTA explanation to learn more about how Mexico has had to import more and more of its staple foods.
- Increase in poverty. Between 45% and 60% of the 800 million people in the region live in poverty. About 30% of the population lives from agriculture. With the destruction of the possibilities of life in the countryside, poverty will grow much more.
- Degradation of the environment. The regions with the most activity of large companies, such as the border between Mexico and the United States and the maquiladora areas in Central America, are the most polluted on the continent.
- Increased migration. With the loss of jobs and life chances in the country, many people are forced to migrate to cities or to the United States.
Against the FTAA
As we have seen, neoliberalism values money above all else. In the alternatives, the highest value is human life. Some of the strategies that are already being used to provide alternatives to the FTAA and neoliberalism are:
- Land defense and organic agriculture.
- Commercial boycott against transnational companies.
- National, regional, and continental meetings to share information and grow solidarity among peoples.
- Communication and information campaigns on Free Trade and its projects.
- Produce to eat and exchange as a barter.
- Mobilizations, marches, blockades, sit-ins – make the voice of the peoples heard.
- Alliances between governments and peoples of Latin America with the same interests and curb the hegemony of the United States
- Achieve legislation that defends the interests of the majorities.
These alternatives have already been successful. Thanks to the efforts of the people, many governments in Latin America are questioning neoliberalism and the FTAA, and they are not simply following the will of the United States. A valid example of the aforementioned is the creation of ALBA.
This list represents only a few of the possible alternatives. Together, we can develop many more.