Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) - Press kit
Posté le 15 novembre 2005 par Administrateur
Ecrit le 1er octobre 2002
This press kit was designed by the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) for use by the regional media and contains information relating to the ongoing FTAA negotiations.
The Press Kit contains the following :
Fact file on the FTAA
Information on the Caribbean (NGO) Reference Group on External Relations
Issues - What’s wrong with the negotiations
Letter sent by CRG to Caribbean Governments and Negotiators
Questions for Discussion
Unless fundamental changes which benefit smaller economies are demanded by Caribbean policy makers, the Caribbean (NGO) Reference Group on External Relations (CRG) believes that any agreements made at the upcoming FTAA Ministerial in Quito Ecuador, October 31st to November 1st will have a devastating impact on the economic future of the Caribbean.
An examination of the current FTAA draft Agreements, to be discussed at the Ministerial clearly shows that if accepted without alterations, they would provide Transnational Corporations and foreign investors with the ability to exploit national economies to the detriment of local interests. Many of the recommendations which are currently proposed will take away the ability of government to use traditional mechanisms in the national development process, such as control of capital flows, investment and the provision of basic services.
Shantal Munro-Knight, Programme Officer at CPDC stated “In the area of investment for example, the current proposals will undoubtedly increase the quantity of investors in the region, but the real question is will it qualitatively increase the benefits to smaller economies. In development terms, good quality investment transfers skills and technology and creates dynamic linkages with local firms”.
The CRG is a group of expert NGOs who have been working on the issues of trade liberalization and examining the current FTAA draft agreements in all the negotiating areas. Through a process of research and consultation the CRG develops alternative proposals on the various trade agreements. Further the CRG emphasizes the need to involve Caribbean people within the trade discussions at the national level. Based on this work the CRG is therefore urging Caribbean policy makers to ensure international trade agreements work for the benefit of all people and development within the region.
Shantal Munro-Knight at the CPDC office in Barbados on
+ 246 437 6055 or email@example.com
FTAA FACT FILE
Where did the FTAA come from-
The idea of creating a free trade area in the Americas came out of the 1st Summit of the Americas held in Miami, Florida, in December 1994. At that Summit 34 heads of state and governments signed onto a Plan of Action, which outlined various initiatives the leaders committed themselves to.
In their declaration at the end of the Summit, the Heads committed themselves to four main areas of focus :
1. To preserve and strengthen the community of democracies of the Americas
2. To promote prosperity through economic integration and free trade
3. To eradicate poverty and discrimination
4. To guarantee sustainable development & conserve our natural environment for future generations
The current negotiations on the FTAA are therefore an attempt to implement the second goal the leaders set for themselves at the Miami Summit.
What has happened since Miami-
The leaders have committed themselves to having negotiations on the FTAA completed by January 2005 and the FTAA actually established by December 2005. Four ministerial meetings have taken place during the preparatory phase of the FTAA process, the first was in June 1995 in Denver, USA ; the second in March 1996 in Cartegena, Columbia ; the third in May 1997 in Bel Horizonte, Brazil ; and the fourth in March 1998 in San Jose, Costa Rica.
At their meeting in San Jose, Ministers recommended to their Heads of State and Government the initiation of negotiations and set out the structure and general principles and objectives to guide the FTAA negotiations.
On the basis of the San Jose Declaration, the FTAA negotiations were launched formally in April 1998, at the Second Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile.
The fifth Ministerial meeting - the first since negotiations were formally initiated - took place in Toronto in November 1999. At this meeting Ministers instructed the negotiating Groups to prepare a draft text of their respective chapters to be presented at the 6th Ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in April 2001.
At the sixth Ministerial meeting, held in Buenos Aires and at the 3rd Summit of the Americas held in Quebec City in April 2001 a number of key decisions were made regarding the FTAA negotiations.
Denver, June 1995
Cartegna, June 1996
Belo Horizonte, May 1997
San Jose, March 1998
Toronto, November 1999
Buenos Aires, April 2001
Quito, November 2002
Summits of the Americas
1st Miami, December 1994
2nd Santiago, April 1998
3rd Quebec, April 2001
How does it actually work-
The structure of the FTAA is usually decided upon by the Ministers responsible for Trade when they meet every year. At their Ministerial meeting they receive a report or update on where the negotiations currently stand. The ministers then give directives on the way forward for the negotiations. The Chair of the process of the FTAA is rotated between different countries at each Ministerial meeting. (The Chair of the FTAA from May 1st of 2001 to October 31st 2002 is Ecuador and the Vice Chair is Chile).
The Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) which is made up of the Vice Ministers responsible for Trade have a central role in managing FTAA negotiations, they ensure that the process follows the directive set by the Ministers. The TNC
Guides the work of the negotiating groups and other committees
Decides on the overall architecture of the agreement and institutional issues
Ensures that all countries participate in the process and that the process is transparent
Oversees the administrative secretariat
Oversees the identification and implementation of business facilitation measures
This committee meets as required but no less than twice a year.
The Negotiating groups and special committees are responsible for hammering out the text of the negotiations. They are made up of representatives from various countries and their main objective is to reach a consensus on the issues up for negotiations.
The Negotiating Groups (May 2001-October 2002)
Chairmanship of the Negotiating Group rotates every eighteen months or at the conclusion of each Ministerial meeting.
|Negotiating Groups||Chair ||Vice Chair|
|Market Access ||Argentina ||Columbia|
|Investment ||Mexico ||Bolivia|
|Services ||CARICOM ||Venezuela|
|Government Procurement ||Costa Rica ||Columbia|
|Dispute Settlement ||Paraguay ||Chile|
|Agriculture ||Guatemala ||Uruguay|
|Intellectual Property Rights ||United States ||Dominican Republic|
|Subsidies, Countervailing Duties and Anti-Dumping ||Peru ||CARICOM|
|Competition Policy ||Columbia ||Peru|
Special Committees (May 2001-) October 2002
|Special Committees ||Chair ||Vice Chair|
|Consultative Committee on Smaller Economies ||Bolivia ||Nicaragua|
|Joint Government and Private Sector Committee of Experts on Electronic Commerce ||Canada ||Peru|
|Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society ||Dominica Republic ||Panama|
The Tripartite Committee which consists of the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) provides analytical, technical and financial support to the process and maintains the official FTAA website.
What are the Key Principles
Decisions will be taken by consensus
Negotiations will be conducted in a transparent manner
The FTAA will be consistent with WTO rules and disciplines and should improve upon these rules and disciplines wherever possible and appropriate
The FTAA will be a single undertaking
The FTAA can coexist with bilateral and sub-regional agreements and countries may negotiate and accept the obligations of the FTAA individually or as members of a sub-regional integration group and
Special attention will be given to the needs of the smaller economies ;.
Measures to facilitate smaller economies should be transparent, simple and easily applicable
Countries to ensure that their laws, regulations and procedures conform to the FTAA agreement
Differences in the level of development among countries to be taken into account
Countries participating in the FTAA
Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados,
Brazil, Canada, Columbia,
Costa Rica, Ecuador, Grenada,
Bahamas, Haiti, Belize,
Mexico, Guyana, Dominica,
Suriname, Venezuela, United States,
Guatamala, Honduras, Nicaragua,
Peru, St. Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad &Tobago,
Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile,
El Salvador, Jamaica, Panama,
Dominican Republic, St.Vincent & Grenadines, Paraguay,
Who negotiates on the behalf of CARICOM
At the head of the Negotiations is the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Committee (CRNM), Dr. the Hon Richard Bernal is the Director General of the CRNM.
|NEGOTIATING AREA||LEAD NEGOTIATORS||COUNTRY|
|Services||FTAA Chair - H.E James Smith|
Lead- Ms.Lynette Eastmond
|Investment ||Dr. Maurice Odle||Guyana|
|Market Access ||Ambassador Peter King||Jamaica|
|Government Procurement ||Mrs. Patrice Pratt- Harrison||Jamaica|
|Dispute Settlement ||Mr. Wayne Shelton||Jamaica|
|Agriculture ||Mr. Nigel Durrant||Guyana|
|Intellectual Property Rights ||Ms. Beverly Perreira||Jamaica|
|Subsidies, Countervailing Duties and Anti-Dumping ||FTAA Vice Chair - Mr. Bernard Sylvester ||Trinidad & Tobago|
|Competition Policy ||Mr. Roger Moore||Trinidad & Tobago|
Special Committees (May 2001-) October 2002
|COMMITTEES ||LEAD NEGOTIATORS ||COUNTRY|
|Consultative Committee on Smaller Economies ||Professor Andrew Downes||Barbados|
|Joint Government and Private Sector Committee of Experts on Electronic Commerce ||Senator Dale Marshall||Barbados|
|Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society ||Mrs. Charmaine Constantine||Jamaica|
WHO IS THE CRG and WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT-
The Caribbean (NGO) Reference Group On External Relations (CRG) is a representative grouping of major NGO development networks, focusing particularly on issues related to trade liberalization. The organizations work together to develop coordinated responses to the ongoing international trade agenda as well as to coordinate national and sub-regional mobilization and educational activities. The work of the CRG is coordinated and facilitated by the CPDC.
The CRG’s work is promoted through :
Mobilization and consultation
Advocacy and networking
The positions adopted by the CRG relative to the ongoing trade negotiations are based on the following tenents
Unequal Treatment for Unequal Partners
Development as a Primary Objective
Protection of Vulnerable Sectors & Populations
The CRG does not necessarily believe that trade liberalization in itself is a bad thing, clearly a phased, fair and sensitive process of liberalization in some sectors can provide benefits to the region. However, we have fundamental problems with the underlying philosophy, structure and the working processes of the present system.
We believe that the international trading system must be guided by the following :
Reshaping the Agenda : Development First
The current international trade agenda is driven by profit accumulation. This system uses increases in world trade, capital expansion and increased market openness as the main indicators of its success. Sustainable development is not explicitly identified or recognized as priority. It is for this reason that the needs and concerns of ordinary people are continually not being met by the system, while the interest of trans-national and large developed countries are being adhered to. In order to redress this imbalance, we believe that world leaders need to ensure that global processes and institutions refocus their agenda on ensuring sustainable development.
Recognizing Special Circumstances : Unequal Treatment for Unequal Partners
As countries move towards establishing a rules-based system in which reciprocity is one of the main tenets, there is a tendency to ignore or downplay the differences, which exist between states. Such a tendency hides the fact that some countries like those in the Caribbean may be disadvantaged in the system because they are unable to interact with and capitalize on the benefits from the system in the same way as larger developed countries. The principle of Unequal treatment for Unequal partners is crucial if the system is to be just and fair.
Good Governance : Civil Society Participation
Governments are the elected representatives of their countries and as such have a legitimate right to speak on behalf of and make decisions for their populations. However this does not eliminate the right of citizens to speak on their own behalf and to have a say in decision-making processes that will affect their lives.
Given this, we believe that leaders must move to ensure that there are institutionalized entry points for civil society participation at the national, regional and global level. The process of trade liberalization is too far reaching and has so many implications for every sector that to exclude civil society is to exclude the very people who will bear the burnt of the impact.
The members of the CRG
The Association of Caribbean Economics (ACE) is a regional alliance of academics working in all areas of economies with a Caribbean perspective
The Association of Development Agencies (ADA) is a group of 13 NGO’s promoting development and social change through an integrated, holistic and sustainable approach. (Jamaica)
The Caribbean Association of Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) is the leading Women’s organization in the Caribbean and covers the English, Spanish, Creole and Dutch speaking Caribbean. (Trinidad)
The Caribbean Congress of Labor (CCL) is the largest trade union umbrella network in the English speaking Caribbean. (Barbados)
The Centro de investigacion Economica para el Caribe (CIECA) an NGO consisting of professional economists at the forefront of Dominican and Regional economic debates and research. (Dominican Republic)
The Plateforme Haitienne de Plaidoyer pour un Developpement Alternatif (PAPDA) is a coalition of Haitian NGOs, community based groups and socio-professional organizations working from the perspective the Haitian popular-democratic movement to analyze, educate and lobby around questions of economic policy. (Haiti)
The West Indies Farmers Association (WINFA) mainly represents small banana producers and has experience of working extensively on Lomé and Fair trade initiatives. (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
ISSUES : WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PROCESS
The issue of agriculture is extremely important for countries within CARICOM, particularly as it relates to issues of market access, food security, agrarian reform and rural development. Even in the context where the services sector has bypassed agriculture relative to percentage of exports, agricultural activity whether for domestic or international purposes stills plays a significant role in the overall economic and social architecture of these countries. In particular, countries within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are highly dependent on agricultural exports, which range from 31% to 61% of their total exports.
However, with recent years CARICOM countries have been experiencing decreased growth in their export performance as the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAoA) has resulted in an erosion in the value of preferences. Additionally, producers from developed countries are able to benefit from the provision of domestic subsidies, export credits, tariff escalation and numerous other tariff and non-tariff barriers, which restrict market access to agricultural products from smaller economies.
The Caribbean (NGO) Reference Group on External Relations (CRG) is concerned that the FTAA negotiations is not seeking to increase commitments for developed countries relative to reduction of their export subsidies, domestic support and other barriers over and above those committed to in the WTO negotiations. Even if developed countries live up to their URAoA commitments they would still retain prohibitive levels of domestic support. A recent study on CARICOM Agriculture pointed out that tariff and tariff rate quotas account for 52% of agricultural world price distortions, while domestic subsidies account for 31% and export subsidies 13%.
Further, the current draft FTAA negotiating text makes no significant mention of non-trade issues such as food security, food aid, the environment and rural development. These issues are of significant importance to small economies and any Agreement on Agriculture in the Hemisphere should make due recognition of these concerns. We believe that the negotiations should define clearly how such concerns would be dealt with in the context of the FTAA.
In this light we recommend the following :
A Development Box be created which would allow small and vulnerable countries to use a ‘positive list’ to declare which agricultural products or sectors they would like to include in the provisions of the agreement
Only small and vulnerable economies should be allowed to apply safe guard measures. Further, smaller economies should also be allowed to apply according to specific criteria, a safe guard measure against imported products previously subject to such a measure.
The ‘de minimis’ level for small economies domestic support should be increased from 10% to 20% and current ‘green box’ subsidies should be expanded to include provisions for small economies to deal with food security, rural development and environment issues.
Small economies should be exempt from further tariff reductions, particularly in circumstances where substantial liberalization has already been undertaken.
Civil Society Participation
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have and continue to contribute to the overall social and economic development of the region. Such organizations in this hemisphere, including NGOs, labour and academia have been and are working critically in the interest of the most vulnerable sectors and populations. CSOs have worked consistently in a number of areas, including the development of concrete social and entrepreneurship programmes, which offer alternatives to citizens, acting as watchdogs against governments, protecting worker’s rights and providing informal education. This contribution has increased significantly in the past ten years, as a number of factors limit the ability of some governments within this Hemisphere to deliver important social and economic services to their populations.
Individual governments and the FTAA should articulate a process which would give true meaning to the Ministerial mandate given to this committee ‘to foster a process of increased and sustained participation of different sectors of civil society as well as its interest in the continued contribution by these sectors on issues of relevance to the FTAA....’ The current interpretation of the mandate, which limits the role of the committee to collecting submissions from CSOs, is clearly unsatisfactory.
The current Committee made up of Government representatives should be restructured and a Joint Committee of Civil society and Government representatives on the FTAA should be established.
Specifically, in order to increase the participation of women in the FTAA process technical and financial assistance should be allocated to build the capacity of women’s organizations
In order to increase the transparency of the process as well as the information available to the public, governments should mandate the Civil Society Committee to oversee a broad process of national consultation and education.
Caribbean NGOs agree that the issue of investment is of critical importance to smaller economies like those in the CARICOM region, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic. These countries use a variety of measures including performance requirements to channel the benefits of foreign investment to national development objectives. However, within recent times CARICOM countries have seen a real decline in the flows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the region as the ongoing process of liberalization has increased competition and opened up new markets for investors.
International charity Oxfam in its publication Rigged Rules & Double Standards (2002) notes that the benefits of FDI have been ‘wildly exaggerated’. Oxfam estimates that for every US$1 transferred to a developing country in FDI around $0.30 leaves in the form of repatriated earnings. Additionally, Oxfam also shows that cost of imports of goods and services associated with FDI can have destabilising effects on a countries economy. ‘In Mexico, imports by foreign investors in the period leading up to the financial crash at the end of 1995 are estimated to have increased the current-account deficit in the balance of payments by an amount equivalent to more than 2 percent of GDP. Similarly the rapid increase in Thailand’s import to GDP from 25 to 49 percent between 1990 and 1997 was largely due to the rise in import dependency associated with FDI. Foreign investment projects were importing more than 90% of their machinery, and more than half of their raw materials.’ Oxfam goes on to state, referencing an UNTAD (1997) report as indicating that in both cases the high import costs and profit remittances associated with FDI had a negative overall effect on the balance of payments. ‘In both Mexico and Thailand, the balance of payments pressures generated by import-intensive FDI added to the financial pressures that culminated in financial collapse’.
Of similar concern to the CRG are the proposals restricting government’s control on capital flows, Article 9 on Transfers. This clearly upsurps the authority of national Central Banks and threatens the very economic independence and stability of a country if it cannot control capital flows. The proposal that countries be allowed to temporarily limit transfers in cases of ‘exceptional’ or ‘grave’ or ‘severe’ balance of payment difficulties will offer little assistance to smaller economies. Would it not be more prudent to be able to control capital flows before in order to prevent such instances of exceptional or grave or severe balance of payments problems-
In this context the CRG recommends the following :
The agreement should allow small and vulnerable economies to enforce performance requirements on foreign firms for no less than seven years after the Agreement comes into force with the ability to request an extension according to agreed upon criteria.
The CRG is calling for the adoption of bracketed text in Article 11 1 which would provide smaller economies with the ability to delay payment to meet national development objectives, investors of a party who suffer losses because their investment or returns on the territory of another Party ............... Such compensation as may be granted shall be reinvested in the host country. Smaller economies may delay payment of compensation for balance of payments reasons and may prioritise payments to meet national development objectives.
Article 9 on Transfers should preserve the right of Central Banks to control transfers to protect the economic stability of economies within the Americas
For the small and vulnerable economies of the Caribbean the services sector is one of the fastest growing industries in the region, making up in excess of 50% of the GDP of most of these countries. The sector’s critical and growing importance is propelled by the impending elimination of traditional preferential and non-reciprocal arrangements, for most of the region’s chief agricultural products and restricted market access for most of its textiles and clothing due to tariff and non-tariff instruments of developed countries.
In this context, these smaller economies are now highly dependent on the success of this sector to contribute to national development objectives.
In particular, the Caribbean NGO Reference Group (CRG) on External Relations is concerned about the comprehensive nature of proposals being put forward. Article 1 point 1.1 on the Scope of Application states that, This chapter shall apply to all measures adopted by the Parties that affect trade in services, in all sectors and in all different modes of supply, including those stemming from the delivery of commercial services by the public sector, at the national, federal, regional or local levels, as well as those stemming from bodies in the exercise of powers delegated by the national federal, regional or local government. This definition suggests a wide purview for the agreement, which has the potential to limit government action and even usurp the authority of government legislation. The intent of many proposals within the draft text and some of the agreed text seem bent on ensuring that firms and trans- nationals can gain maximum leverage from the Agreement at the expense of government authority. This is particularly worrying for small and vulnerable economies who need to retain some control even in the commercial sector in order to ensure that the public good is continually being met.
The CRG is not convinced that the exemption proposed for ‘those services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority, provided on a non-commercial basis, nor in competition with one or more service providers or supplier’ as defined in Article 8, will provide any protection for our citizens.
The Negotiating Group should without reservation adopt of all proposals under the Section Special and Differential Treatment as stated within the Draft Agreement on Services. This adoption should also include any proposals to further enhance the provisions in favour of smaller economies.
The application of a non-reciprocal formula approach, in favour of smaller economies and developing countries with respect to Mode 4 - The Movement of Natural Persons. The application of the formula should guarantee a level of commitments, by all developed countries, providing for enhanced and effective market access conditions for services providers from smaller economies and Less Developed Countries, including removal of non-tariff restrictions such as visa requirements and work permits.
That the Draft agreement state explicitly that smaller economies would be allowed an exemption from services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority which include activities forming part of the social services system, as well as activities in the protection of national interest.
The UNDP Human Development Report for 2000 states that while world exports of goods and services expanded rapidly between 1990 and 1998, global exports for the least developed countries actually declined between that same period from 0.5% in the 1990s to 0.4% in 1998. Further while FDI have boomed reaching more than $600 billion in 1998 these flows have been very concentrated with less developed countries receiving less than $3 billion a mere 0.4% of the total.
Despite a growth in regional trade over the last two decades profits have failed to trickle down and an environment for long-term stable economic growth has not emerged with the Americas witnessing a marked increase in the extent of poverty and consequentially a widening of the gap between rich and poor.
The 1999 World Bank Economic Report for Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) point to the fact that while FDI expanded to record levels (US$89 billion) in 1999, and economic growth continued at an average annual rate of 3.5%, the plight of the poor worsened.
It also identified massive unemployment, poor physical and social infrastructure, corruption, violence and crime as the major obstacles standing between the poor and a good quality of life. To this can be added, a general decline in the access to quality education, basic health care, and appropriate social safety nets to mitigate economic dislocation. Growing marginalisation among vulnerable groups in society, and overall environmental degradation are also salient features of the “newly entrenched poverty” in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The critical issue therefore is not whether the region of the Americas should pursue greater economic integration through free trade systems and liberal investment regimes, but rather, how and if, the major actors in this process can design a system which seeks to :
Reduce income poverty and inequality through the creation of higher quality and better paying jobs for the poor ;
Increase high-quality educational attainment and improve health outcomes ;
Eliminate social exclusion, and gender and ethnic discrimination ;
Increase participation of marginalised groups in the political and decision-making process ; and
Prevent crime and violence in all of our societies ;
It is for these reasons that the Caribbean (NGO) Reference Group on External Relations believes that the FTAA needs to be refashioned and it priorities more closely interwoven with the other goals of the 1st Summit of the Americas. In this context we have outlined what we believe should be the overall concerns of the FTAA.
1. Poverty Reduction
Policy makers must seek to establish specific poverty reduction and social development targets aimed at reducing poverty and social exclusion as well as bridging the massive gap between rich and poor in the Americas. The achievement of these targets must be supported by the establishment of appropriate mechanisms, which not only measure performance in the respective countries but also more radically ensure that the benefits, which are derived from free trade are shared equally among all.
The CRG believes that failure to prioritise poverty reduction, rather than increased trade and investment flows as the end product of regional economic integration in the hemisphere will result in the further marginalisation of the regions poor.
2. Economic and Social Development Pact of the Americas
The CRG abhors current efforts by hemispheric policy makers to totally separate social development concerns from those associated with the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.
In an effort to recreate the original spirit of the Summit process, the CRG believes that a decision should be taken to go one step beyond the existing boundaries of the proposed FTAA to create a Social and Economic Development Pact of the Americas (SEDPA). This Pact should consist of a genuine free trade area, which emerges from the on-going discussions on trade and investment, together with a social development platform, which should be simultaneously negotiated between the social development policy makers and civil society in the Summit of Americas process.
The CRG supports the recommendation of the ILO for the insertion of a “Workers Rights Clause” in the FTAA that calls on all employers and governments alike to establish mechanisms to protect basic worker rights and deploy sanctions against breaches of the same. The specific provisions referred to here are covered in the fundamental rights provisions of the core ILO Conventions adopted between 1919 and 1998. These include :
Conventions 29 and 105 on the abolition of forced labour
Conventions 87 and 98 on the rights of freedom of association, to collective bargaining and Trade Union action and involvement (including the right to strike) without employer or government interference.
Conventions 100 and 111 on equal pay for equal value and the prevention of discrimination in the work place ; and
Convention 138 on the prevention of child labour and the establishment of minimum working age standards.
It is the firm view of the CRG that all signatories to the FTAA agreement must be required to ratify these Conventions where they have not already done so and once signed to vigorously enforce them. Further that ascension to the proposed FTAA must be conditional on the acceptance and implementation of these Conventions. Additionally the CRG also believes that appropriate sanctions be introduced for breaches of the proposed Workers Rights Clause.
Additionally, that a separate Labour Standards Protection Panel be established with investigative and adjudicative responsibilities to examine and report to the appropriate body within the management structure of the FTAA. This body should consist of a variety of representatives from the key sectors within the FTAA process including the private sector, government, labour and the NGO sector in the hemisphere.
Relative to Women’s issues and the impact of the FTAA, the CRG believes that a separate Consultative Committee on the enhancement of women’s concerns in the FTAA should be created. This Committee should be specifically mandated to work with women’s organisations throughout the hemisphere to determine the actual and potential impact of trade liberalisation on women and how best to avoid these problems in a new Free Trade Area (FTA).
The Committee should also seek as a matter of priority to develop and input recommendations to the Working Groups on ways to create guaranteed equal access of women to quality jobs, training, micro credit, land as well as protection from exploitation, discrimination and marginalisation from the mainstream of economic activity. Ultimately the CRG holds fast to the view that the FTAA should as a matter of priority seek to immediately implement the salient provisions of the Beijing Platform and provide supporting financial and technical support to countries to ensure effective implementation.
With respect to the environment the CRG believes that as a matter of priority the FTAA must establish clear and permanent basic environmental protection clauses in the agreement that set standards for trans-national corporations and governments alike. These basic standards should conform to the internationally agreed principles contained in the Rio Programme of Action and the Agenda 21 of Plan Of Action from the Bridgetown Accord of SIDS. The FTAA should also establish an independent Hemispheric Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the implementation and maintenance of the basic environmental standards agreed upon by FTAA negotiators.
LETTER SENT BY CRG TO CARIBBEAN GOVERNMENTS AND NEGOTIATORS
16th October 2002
The Caribbean (NGO) Reference Group on External Relations (CRG) is writing to express its concerns about the ongoing Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) process. We are aware that hemispheric leaders and negotiators including those from the Caribbean are due to discuss the status of the FTAA negotiations at the upcoming November Ministerial in Quito, Ecuador. The CRG is concerned about the positions enunciated in several of the draft agreements coming out of the on-going negotiations. The current proposals if accepted will nullify any gains for the region from the FTAA.
Clearly, the general thrust of the drafts suggests that the main priority of the FTAA process is to provide trans-national corporations and foreign investors with an unfettered environment for the extraction of profits, without creating any sustainable benefits or linkages to national economies. This is demonstrated for instance, in the draft agreement on Investment, Article 7, which is recommending ruling out the use of performance requirements on foreign investment. Such a prohibition radically minimizes the ability of small states to direct the benefits of foreign investment. The current investment proposals might quantitatively increase the number of investors coming to the region, but the real question is, Will it qualitatively increase the benefits of investment for smaller economies- Additionally, we note that many of the recommendations related to providing allowances for smaller economies are still viewed as contentious in all of the negotiating areas.
In light of these and other concerns, we wish to strongly urge Caribbean leaders attending the FTAA Ministerial to defer from agreeing to the current drafts and instead reiterate the call made in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Ministerial, for an agreement that is development based and establishes mechanisms to ensure that small and vulnerable economies are not disenfranchised in the process.
In the CRG’s FTAA position paper (2000) entitled ‘Promoting Regional Economic Integration’ in the Fight to Reduce Poverty in the Americas’ we had indicated that the main priority of the FTAA should be on poverty reduction and further that the process should be reconfigured towards a Social & Economic Development Pact of the Americas (SEDPA) which would harmonize economic and social policies in the Hemisphere.
We feel that this recommendation is even more applicable today, given the fact that many economies in the Americas despite following a programme of liberalization are collapsing and leaving in their wake devastated communities. A social and economic development pact would ensure that the FTAA consciously takes into consideration the social impact of its policies and priorities holistic and sustainable development.
Additionally, the recent actions of the United States (US) should also be sufficient reason for regional leaders to think carefully about making significant concessions in the FTAA process. If the US as a large developed economy is moving to put in place mechanisms for the protection of its vulnerable sectors, should we making concessions at this time that would ultimately erode our economic stability-
We hope that you would take our concerns into consideration as you or your representative go into the upcoming Ministerial. As regional NGOs we also have a vested interest in the economic and social stability of the region. We consider ourselves partners in the process of ensuring sustainable development and are committed to promoting the voice and interest of civil society.
The CRG is a broad-based expert group of NGOs working specifically on the issue of trade liberalization. The grouping is coordinated by the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) which is the umbrella body for NGO networks in the region. The CRG has submitted comments outlining our concerns on the draft Agreements to the FTAA secretariat as well as to the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM).
Questions for Discussion
1. Do Caribbean people know enough about the FTAA-
2. Will we be prepared to compete come December 2005-
3. Do you know your government’s FTAA negotiating position on Agriculture- Services- Investment-
4. How ready are the private sector for greater liberalisation-
5. Is there sufficient information on the FTAA from your government- Do you understand it-
6. How will this agreement affect workers- How will this agreement affect the relationship between governments and Trade Unions-
7. Will these agreements inhibit government sovereignty-
8. How are small economies actually going to benefit from the FTAA- What benefits are there for the poorest countries, such as Haiti-
9. Will the increase in the liberalisation of trade make us more vulnerable to Genetically Modified foods and the dumping of products from developed countries, such as milk and rice-
10. What will be the effect of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on local culture- For example, will foreign companies patent local products and practices-
11. Will the TRIPS agreement allow governments to provide low cost medications, especially for those infected with HIV/ AIDS-
12. Will the FTAA definition of what is a protected service be enough to ensure continuation of governments ability to provide basic services-