America's Free Trade

By Barbosa, Rubens A. | The World Today, April 1998 | Go to article overview

America's Free Trade


Barbosa, Rubens A., The World Today


AT THE LAST SUMMIT MEETING OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENTS, in Miami on lOth December 1994, thirty four Heads of State decided to embark on an ambitious project to integrate the Americas. Cuba is the only country excluded.

A Free Trade Area of the Americas will include the whole American continent, from Alaska to Patagonia, with a population of 776,3 million, a Gross National Product of US$ 8,543 billion (1990 value) and total foreign trade of around US$ 1,2 trillion.'

The project grew from the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative launched by President George Bush in June 1990 - which was more a statement of intention than a specific programme. Aimed at strengthening relations between the USA and Latin American countries, it was to be implemented largely by bilateral agreements.

The Miami Summit approved a Declaration of Principle which created an agreement for development and prosperity based on three principles: democracy, free trade and sustainable development. To make it workable, an action plan for the hemisphere was also approved. This contained concrete measures to be implemented by regional Governments. As a result, a political decision was taken to negotiate an agreement on a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).2

OBJECTIVES AND PRINCIPLES

The objective of the negotiations on FTAA is to establish an area of free trade through the progressive elimination of trade barriers in goods, services and investments, and harmonisation with the rules of the World Trade Organization.3

In different stages of the negotiations, since 1994, the following principles have been approved:

negotiations must be completed by 2005;

decisions must be taken by consensus;

all topics will be negotiated together and form a single undertaking;

countries will negotiate individually or in subregional groups;

the final agreement must be consistent with the principles of the World Trade Organization;

the agreement will look for ways to help the integration and development of smaller economies.

Since December 1994, there has been one meeting of Heads of State, three between Trade Ministers, and over fifty involving deputy ministers and senior officials.

Twelve working groups have put together an unprecedented database of the rules and legislation of the countries of the Americas. After Santiago, they will be reduced to nine negotiating groups, with a coordinating committee. There is a consensus on the aims and principles in customs procedures, rules of origin, regulations and technical barriers to trade, health (including plants and animals), government purchases, services and competition policies.

Positions are still far apart on the other eight subjects, particularly between Mercosul - the southern common market of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay - and the USA. This is especially true of access to markets and subsidies.

Work has been carried out by a preparatory committee of deputy foreign trade ministers which has drafted a Ministerial Declaration for the Santiago Summit. …

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