FTAA Falters on Road to 2005: The Recent Negotiation Impasse at the Free Trade Area of the Americas Summit in Miami Shows That the Globalist Plan to Merge the Hemisphere Can Still Be Stopped

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Plans to merge 34 countries of North and South America and the Caribbean into a supra-national government modeled after the European Union hit some snags at the recent hemispheric summit in Miami. However, the Bush administration is continuing the Clinton administration's commitment to complete a formal agreement on the merger by 2005. To this end, it has announced a stepped-up schedule to negotiate a series of bilateral, multilateral and regional trade agreements aimed at achieving the hemispheric merger piecemeal and applying pressure to countries that are resisting economic and political convergence.

The weeklong Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) summit in Miami ended abruptly on Thursday, November 20, a day earlier than scheduled. Though U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and many of his foreign counterparts attending the conference termed the gathering a success, it was clear that they were putting a happy face on a negotiated framework agreement that had become mired in trade disputes and had fallen far short of expectations.

At a surprise press conference hurriedly called Thursday night, Mr. Zoellick announced that the trade and finance nfinisters had completed their work earlier than expected. "We got our work done a few hours early," he announced. "We are moving the FFAA ... into a new phase. We are negotiating it, not just seeking it." Brazil's Celso Amorim, who co-chaired the summit with Zoellick, contrasted the event's conclusion with the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Cancun, Mexico, in September. The Cancun summit ended in deadlock, as several countries walked out over disputes concerning agricultural tariffs and subsidies, intellectual property rights and other hotly contested issues. "The great difference [at Cancun] is that everyone was dancing to the beat of their own drum," said Amorim. "Today we have reached a result that was all common ."

But the image of sweet unity and harmony projected by Zoellick and Amorim was an attempt to cover over contentious issues that had threatened to turn Miami into another Cancun donnybrook. The Miami declaration provides the framework for the next round of FTAA negotiations, which will begin early next year. The document reaffirms the commitment signed by President George W. Bush and other hemispheric leaders at the Quebec Summit of the Americas in 2001 to achieve a final agreement by January 2005, with the FTAA going into effect by the end of that year. The declaration gives a deadline of September 30, 2004 for final tariff negotiations but sets no dates for other matters, such as environmental regulation, labor codes, immigration and health care--all of which have been proposed for FTAA jurisdiction.

To avoid an impasse, the U.S. agreed to a weaker treaty draft that would allow countries to opt out of FTAA regulations they don't like. The agreement, for exam pie, allows Brazil to opt out of the FTAA on intellectual property rights, opening services markets, and new laws protecting foreign investors. Zoellick pointedly contested critics' characterizations of the Miami agreement as "FTAA Lite" or "ALCA Lite"--ALCA being the Spanish acronym for FTAA. "I don't accept your presumption that what we negotiated was an ALCA Lite," Zoellick told Latin American critics during a Thursday afternoon session.

However, the U.S. trade representative's actions belied his words. On November 19, after negotiations had reached a deadlock, Zoellick announced that he would launch a new flurry of negotiations for bilateral trade pacts with at least six countries. Those named were the Dominican Republic, Panama, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Although Zoellick has been pursuing bilateral trade pacts with these and many other countries over the past two years, the announcement signaled a new high-pressure effort by the administration to draft reluctant countries into the FTAA with the threat of being isolated from access to the coveted U. …