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FTAA Ministerial Quito 2002
On November 1, trade ministers from throughout the Western Hemisphere met in Quito, Ecuador to push negotiations for the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA to 31 more countries. The FTAA seeks to expand the failed NAFTA model of privatization, deregulation and a "race to the bottom" to the rest of the Western hemisphere. Thousands of citizens from throughout the Americas were in Quito to meet them, protesting the substance of the proposals in the FTAA as well as the secretive, closed negotiation process itself. A broad coalition of Ecuadorian groups united with allies from all over the hemisphere to show the trade negotiators and corporate executives attending the Americas Business Forum and the 7th FTAA Ministerial that ordinary Latin Americans oppose the agreement. The leading National Campesino Social Security Organization (CONFEUNASSC-CNC), the National Indigenous Conferderation (CONAIE), the Andean Indigenous Federation (Ecuarunari), the Ecuadorian Federation of Free Trade Unions (CEOSL) and grassroots environmental groups Acción Ecológica and Cequipus worked together to mobilize people in the country and to promote alternatives to the FTAA "one-size-fits-all" corporate-managed trade model.
Internationally, more than 120 groups from around the hemisphere signed a statement demanding transparency in the FTAA negotiations and a release of a complete draft text (not a "scrubbed" version lacking vital information as was released after the Quebec City Summit of the Americas). However, the the demands of civil society were once again ignored and the official bracketed draft text released shows areas of disagreement between country negotiators, but lacks the crucial information identifying which countries support which positions.
The United States Trade Representatives Office (USTR) press release claims that the FTAA Ministerial was a "mission acomplished," but the final analysis shows that the U.S. returned empty handed from Quito (see analysis by Victor Menotti of the International Forum on Globalization – IFG) thanks in part to the growing resistance to the failed "free" trade NAFTA model in the Americas and all over the world.
The FTAA overlaps with much of the GATS negotiations. The FTAA includes commitments to "liberalize" trade in "services" such as education, energy, healthcare, water, postal services and financial services (including accounting).
The FTAA will also include the NAFTA "investor-to-state" corporate lawsuit provision. Also known as NAFTA "Chapter 11" this provision allows corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals for compensation when domestic regulations (public health, safety, environmental or labor laws) affect profits. To date, the NAFTA Chapter 11 model has allowed corporations to claim over $30 billion from taxpayers!
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