The Free Trade Area of the Americas: Miami Round
A reflection by Morrigan Phillips, Jubilee Fellow
The reality of “FTAA-Lite”
In various papers around the country on November 20th, 2003 were headlines announcing that the negotiations around the Free Trade Area of the Americas had ended early. Neither the headlines nor the articles that accompanied them told the real story. The US trade representative and the Brazilian trade minister did an incredible job spinning the real conclusions of the Miami round of FTAA negotiations to cover up their failure, and our victory as trade justice advocates.
The agreement that emerged out of one day of talks is a shell of a document. Being dubbed “FTAA-Lite,” it is a basic compromise between the US and other countries, mostly Brazil to keep talking. “FTAA-Lite offers countries the option to opt-out of any provisions of the FTAA they feel disinclined to take part in. This creates a buffet style FTAA, which is a far cry from the US backed “all or nothing “FTAA. The nine working groups that make up the FTAA negotiations were never discussed. Services, Investment, agriculture, subsidies, and intellectual property rights are among the most contentious of the working groups. Within these working groups are the most important issues to free trade campaigners. The failure of Miami leaves the most important issues unresolved such as water privatization and agricultural subsidies.
The next round of negotiation will be in Puebla, Mexico in February of 2004. The trade negotiating committee will meet, as will the nine working groups. It is in Puebla that the heart of the FTAA will begin to be hashed out. If the US is able to fracture the growing solidarity between the Andean nations of South America then the FTAA will most likely plunk forward.
The social justice movement can celebrate some victory from Miami. It was pressure in the streets of the US and the streets of South America as well as a strong civil society presence in the halls of parliament that forced the US to accept the opt-out agreement. This pressure must continue to keep the FTAA from becoming a reality.
Ultimately, the failure in Miami is on par with the failure of the September WTO meetings in Cancun Mexico, an agreement to keep talking. The difference this time was Brazil and the US wanted to save some face. Brazil shouldered much of the blame for the collapse of the WTO meetings in Cancun and the US was demonized by much of the world for being too aggressive. Neither country wanted to repeat the aftermath of Cancun. So the masters of spin created an agreement and fed it to the press; where unless you read deeply between the lines barely told the real story. The FTAA is derailed. A popular movement for fair trade is gaining ground. As 2004 approaches the FTAA must continue be a part of our agenda. Through the FTAA, and without true trade justice, impoverished and indebted countries will only fall deeper into debt, and those countries that have received interim relief will see the benefits washed away as they return to deeper indebtedness.
The social justice movement still has work to do!
We always have work to do! Miami was one of the most militarized protests in memory. Those of us who were in Miami can speak to the horrific show of force by the Miami police department. We have some serious concerns that must be addressed regarding the militarization of protest space. $8.5 million for funding the “security” in Miami came from the $87 billion Iraq spending bill. Jubilee USA Network Council Partner the AFL-CIO is calling for an independent investigation into the police brutality. The United Steel Workers of America are calling for an investigation into the use of funds from the Iraq budget to fund the police in Miami, and Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into human rights abuses that occurred while protesters were in police custody. This all raises some important issues for the social justice movement in the US. What do we do to counter the ever-increasing police presence and demonization of our movement? We have been seeing growing police presence at our IMF and World Bank peaceful demonstrations and prayer vigils. Even if you were not in Miami, if there is a scheduled public de-brief in your area on what happened in Miami please attend. If there is not an event in your area is having a continuous virtual dialogue on what Miami means for our movement. Everyone is encouraged to become engaged in the dialogue, as we need to protect our ability to speak out in prayerful and peaceful ways about the injustices in our world.