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Free Trade Area of the Americas

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) ( (ALCA), (ZLEA), (ALCA), ) was a proposed agreement to eliminate or reduce the trade barriers among all countries in the Americas but Cuba. In the last round of negotiations, trade ministers from 34 countries met in Miami, Florida, United States, in November 2003 to discuss the proposal. [*] The proposed agreement was an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico and the United States. Opposing the proposal were Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Dominica, Nicaragua and Honduras, which entered the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas in response, and Argentina, Chile and Brazil.

Discussions have faltered over similar points as the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks; developed nations seek expanded trade in services and increased intellectual property rights, while less developed nations seek an end to agricultural subsidies and free trade in agricultural goods. Similar to the WTO talks, Brazil has taken a leadership role among the less developed nations, while the United States has taken a similar role for the developed nations.


Talks towards the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas began with the Summit of the Americas in Miami on December 11, 1994, but the FTAA came to public attention during the Quebec City Summit of the Americas, held in Canada in 2001, a meeting targeted by massive anti-corporatization and anti-globalization protests. The Miami negotiations in 2003 met similar protests, though perhaps not as large. The last summit was held at Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November 2005, but no agreement on FTAA was reached. 26 of the 34 countries present at the negotiations pledged to meet again in 2006 to resume negotiations, but no such meeting took place.

In previous negotiations, the United States has pushed for a single comprehensive agreement to reduce trade barriers for goods, while increasing intellectual property protection. Specific intellectual property protections could include Digital Millennium Copyright Act-style copyright protections, similar to the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Another protection would likely restrict the reimportation or cross-importation of pharmaceuticals, similar to the proposed agreement between the U.S. and Canada.

Brazil has proposed a measured, three-track approach that calls for a series of bilateral agreements to reduce specific tariffs on goods, and a hemispheric pact on rules of origin and dispute resolution processes. Brazil seeks to omit the more controversial issues from the agreement, leaving them to the WTO.

The location of the FTAA Secretariat was to have been determined in 2005. The contending cities are: Atlanta, Chicago, Galveston, Houston and Miami in the United States; Cancun and Puebla in Mexico; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Panama City, Panama; and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. city of Colorado Springs also submitted its candidacy in the early days but subsequently withdrew. [*] Miami, Panama City and Puebla served successively as interim secretariat headquarters during the negotiation process. As of November 2007, only Miami in the United States and Port of Spain in Trinidad appear to be actively vying for the secretariat headquarters. [*] [*]

The failure of the Mar del Plata summit to set out a comprehensive agenda to keep FTAA alive has meant that there is little chance for a comprehensive trade agreement in the foreseeable future.


The following countries have shown interest at some point in becoming members of the Free Trade Area of the Americas [*]:





History pre-1994

In the 1960s there were several modest and humble attempts at regional integration in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The approach of these regional initiatives was to lower tariffs internally while maintaining high trade barriers against non-members. Regional initiatives included the 1960 Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA), the 1960 Central American Common Market (CACM), the 1965 Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA), and the 1969 Andean Pact.

Many North American countries experienced a debt crisis in the 1980s, such as Mexico in 1982. These debt crises contributed to a "lost decade" in terms of economic growth, the adoption of numerous stabilization and structural adjustment programs with the IMF, and a widespread re-evaluation of interventionist, protectionist and inward-looking development strategies. In 1984 the U.S. unilaterally lowered its tariffs against many states in the Caribbean Basin, as part of its Caribbean Basin Initiative.

Many Latin American countries took non-discriminatory steps towards trade liberalization in the late 1980s . This was done partly to follow through on GATT (now the WTO) commitments, but also unilaterally as a domestic policy choice or at the urging of the IMF, the World Bank, the IDB, and USAID. Average tariff levels fell to about 20% in the region by the end of the 1980s.

Another wave of regional trade agreements took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1989 the AP agreed to move towards freer trade within the region, as did CACM and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) in 1990. The Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur) notably including Brazil was established in 1991 with similar plans for freer regional trade.

Canada and U.S. entered into the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1989, and the beginning of negotiations towards free trade between Mexico and the U.S. were announced the next year in 1990. These negotiations were soon expanded to include Mexico in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Several Latin American countries approached the U.S. after the announcement, seeking to negotiate their own bilateral free trade agreements with the U.S., but the U.S. refused to negotiate more bilateral PTAs in the region until NAFTA was implemented. Instead, in June 1990 U.S. President George H. W. Bush announced the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative with the goal of achieving hemispheric free trade by 2000.

In 1994 NAFTA came into force and the 19881994 Uruguay Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations were completed. The goal of hemispheric free trade, which had been renamed the FTAA, was postponed until 2005 primarily at the request of Canada and the U.S.

Opposition and critics

Huge movements have opposed the FTAA at every stage of its development. A coalition of senior citizens, labor groups, environmentalists, human rights advocates and peace advocates as well as concerned citizens have protested both major meetings of the FTAA.

A vocal critic of the FTAA is Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who has described it as an "annexation plan" and a "tool of imperialism" for the exploitation of Latin America . As a counterproposal to this initiative, Chavez has promoted the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas , vaguely based on the model of the European Union, which makes emphasis on energy and infrastructure agreements that are gradually extended to other areas finally to include the total economic, political and military integration of the member states.

Also, Evo Morales of Bolivia has referred to the US-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas, as "an agreement to legalize the colonization of the Americas."

On the other hand, the presidents of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, have stated that they do not oppose the FTAA but they do demand that the agreement provide for the elimination of US agriculture subsidies, the provision of effective access to foreign markets and further consideration towards the needs and sensibilities of its members.

One of the most contentious issues of the treaty proposed by the United States is with concerns to patents and copyrights. Critics claim that if the measures proposed by the US were implemented and applied this would prevent scientific research in Latin America, causing as a consequence more inequalities and technological dependence from the developed countries. On the issue of patents, some critics of the FTAA, such as Canadian nationalist Maude Barlow, have accused the US of attempting to patent Latin America-made inventions. On the Council of Canadians web site, Barlow wrote: "This agreement sets enforceable global rules on patents, copyrights and trademark. It has gone far beyond its initial scope of protecting original inventions or cultural products and now permits the practice of patenting plants and animal forms as well as seeds. It promotes the private rights of corporations over local communities and their genetic heritage and traditional medicines." [*]

On the weekend of April 20, 2001, the 3rd Summit of the Americas was a summit held in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. This international meeting was a round of negotiations regarding a proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. The talks are perhaps better known for the security preparations and demonstrations (known as the Quebec City protest) that surrounded them than for the progress of the negotiations.

Current status

The FTAA missed the targeted deadline of 2005 as planned. This followed the stalling of useful negotiations of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 2005. Over time, some governments not wanting to lose a chance of hemispheric trade expansion moved in the direction of establishing a series of bilateral trade deals. The heads however have planned a future summit called the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009.


Implementation of a full multilateral FTAA between all parties would be eased by enlargement of existing agreements. North America, with the exception of Cuba and Haiti (which does not participate in economic integration with the Caricom) are almost finished to set up a subcontinental free trade area. At this point Agreements within the Area of the Americas include:

Previous agreements

: Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement

- (superseded by DR-CAFTA)

- (superseded by a Costa Rica - CARICOM FTA).

Current agreements

- - : North American Free Trade Agreement (1993)

: United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement (2004)

: United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (2007)

Dominican RepublicCentral America Free Trade Agreement

- -- - Mercosur (1991)

Proposed agreements

; Active negotiations

: Panama - United States Trade Promotion Agreement (2008?)

: Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (2008?)

-: Canada-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Free Trade Negotiations

-Central America Canada-Central America (CA4TA) Free Trade Negotiations

; Negotiations on hold

-Mercosur: CARICOM bilateral trade agreements

: US-Ecuador Free Trade Agreement

See also

Trade bloc

Miami model

Free trade

List of Free Trade Agreements

International trade

Protection of Broadcasts and Broadcasting Organizations Treaty

Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA)

Africa-South America Cooperative Forum ,

Organisation of Latin American and Caribbean States (proposed) ,,,,

North American Free Trade Agreement


Union of South American Nations

Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas

European Union

Free trade areas in Europe

* European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

* Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA)

External links

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) process, official home page

Latin Business Chronicle: FTAA Reports & Links

Indymedia FTAA News

Background information about the FTAA and public participation

Comparing the official agreement and alternative visions

Border Trade Alliance

Stop The FTAA, by the John Birch Society, a conservative alternative opposition.

Media Gallery of the FTAA Protests

The Miami Model Documentary

The battle over trade, BBC News

Midwest Unrest

Scheduled 2005 Demonstration in Montreal, QC

Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas

"R.I.P. Here lies the FTAA" Video extracts of the Mar Del Plata rounds in 2005 with English subtitles.

[*] List of Free Trade Agreements from the OAS.

Articles and papers

Hemisphere Summit Marred by Violent Anti-Bush Protests by Larry Rohter, The New York Times, November 5, 2005

FTAA Delayed, Not Over. By Eric Farnsworth, Council of the Americas, December 2005

Whither the FTAA? , Guyana Chronicle Newspaper

Canada, Chile thwart U.S.Brazilian plan, AP news article

Myths of the FTAA, FoodFirst.org Institute for Food and Development Policy

Why say no to FTAA, bilaterals.org

The Free Trade Area of the Americas and the Threat to Social Programs, Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice in Canada and the Americas

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