FTAA Negotiations Close to Failing in Miami

Venezuela insists on an agreement that will respect the sovereignty of nations and that will continue to allow governments to devise policies that benefit their people.

In order to save what can be saved of the FTAA negotiations in Miami this week, “the U.S. has chosen to focus on bilateral agreements and a piecemeal FTAA,” according to Venezuela’s chief negotiator and vice-Minister for Production and Commerce, Victor Alvarez. He added that the “effort of the U.S. to achieve a comprehensive hemispheric agreement in the interests of transnational corporations is about to be defeated.” In order to save what it can, the U.S. is trying to reach a series of bilateral agreements with different Latin American countries. This U.S. approach is coming to be known as an ALCA “a la carte,” meaning that the U.S. and different cooperating countries will pick and choose issues of the free trade agenda that they can agree upon.

So far, the U.S. has found Colombia, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Canada, the Central American countries, and the Dominican Republic to be the most supportive of the U.S. agenda. These countries announced yesterday that they will sign bilateral free trade agreements with the U.S.

On the other hand, the Caricom countries of the Caribbean, Mercosur (mainly Argentina and Brazil), and Venezuela are resisting the FTAA as the U.S. envisions it, meaning that a complete FTAA agreement by the year 2005 will be impossible to achieve.

Venezuela’s position in the negotiations, is based on three points, according to a recent communiqué of the Venezuelan negotiating team: first, the sovereignty of states, second, the defense of the capacity of the state to develop public policies for the well being of its people, and third, the participation of the affected populations in these types of negotiations with transparency.

As such, Venezuela proposed a key paragraph in the wording of the final agreement, which states, “The commitments that the countries that agree to the FTAA engage in must be compatible with the doctrines of the sovereignty of states and of the respective constitutional texts and should not limit the capacity of states to develop public policies for the benefit of national interests and the well being of their people.”

Venezuelan Civil Society Representatives Oppose the FTAA

While the trade ministers of the Americas are meeting in secret in Miami, thousands of individuals and organizations that are part of the global social justice movement, including a diverse delegation of Venezuelans, are participating in public forums to discuss the FTAA and to demonstrate against it. Dozens of teach-ins and discussions are taking place, which take a closer look at what the FTAA would mean for organized labor, for agriculture, for intellectual property rights, genetically modified foods, the environment, militarism, women, etc.

Tuesday night the documentary “The Revolution Will not Be Televised” was shown as part of a series of documentaries on the Americas.

Tomorrow, on Thursday, which is the first day of the meeting of trade ministers, a major mobilization will take place. Miami and the U.S. federal government have prepared by closing down most of the city center. Approximately $8 million of the $87 billion Iraq spending bill were allocated towards the protection of the FTAA negotiations from the demonstrations. As a result, the massive police presence makes the city center look like an occupied city.