FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) was launched at the First Summit of the Americas in Miami in 1994. Proposed and pushed by the United States, it was a project that supposedly would establish all of the Americas as an area of free commerce of products, services, capital, and financial transactions. However, the U.S. proposal excluded some products, including agricultural products and steel, inasmuch as their inclusion would have been detrimental to producers in the United States.
At the Third Summit of the Americas in Quebec, the United States was able to attain agreement that the FTAA would be placed in vigor in January 2005. However, due to the resistance of some nations in the region, the implementation of the proposal was not attained.
U.S. President George W. Bush arrived at the November 2005 Summit with the intention of resuscitating FTAA. He had a strong ally in Mexican President Vicente Fox. However, five presidents, together representing countries that formed a significant part of the economy of the region, were opposed to the agreement. Venezuela had expressed its opposition at the Quebec meeting and had launched an alternative project of integration guided by the concepts and values of Simón Bolívar. Venezuela was joined in its opposition to FTAA by the four countries of MERCOSUR: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. These countries formally expressed opposition to the treaty on the grounds that U.S. agricultural products were to be excluded. They considered that the U.S. policy of subsidizing agricultural production was detrimental to agricultural producers of the countries of Latin America, establishing a barrier to the sale of their products in the United States. They asserted that they could not continue with negotiations concerning the FTAA without revision of the U.S. policy of agricultural subsidies.
A tone of resistance to U.S. impositions was established at the opening ceremony of the Summit, when the host country president criticized the neoliberal policies of the United States. Argentinean President Néstor Kirchner asserted: “The first world power . . . necessarily ought to consider that the policies that are applied not only provoked misery and poverty, but they also added regional institutional instability that provoked the fall of democratically elected governments.” He also denounced “that archaic vision of the issue of the debt” and “the unjust system of international commerce.”
As a result of the opposition of the governments of the five countries in conjunction with popular opposition in all of the countries of the region, FTAA could not be resuscitated. The Final Declaration of the Summit was not emitted until the heads of state had departed. The final text included a declaration of the governments that supported the FTAA, affirming their commitment to attain an FTAA agreement. At the same time, it included a statement from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela: “The necessary conditions are not yet present for the attainment of an equitable hemispheric free-trade agreement with effective access to the market, free of subsidies and distorting commercial practices, and that takes into account the needs and sensibilities of all the partners as well as the differences in levels of development and size of the economies.” The statement implies that a free-trade agreement could be signed, if rather than making an exception for the benefit of the wealthiest nation, it makes exceptions for the nations of the region that are least developed and that have smaller economies.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s project of an independent integration based on the ideas of Simón Bolívar was beginning to take off, as we will discuss in the next post.
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