sábado, junio 05, 2004

The disease of the day: Acute treatyitis: The Myths and Consequences of free trade agreements with the US

Of the many processes employed over recent decades to privatise, globalise and deregulate the economy around the planet, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been the most important. But for some countries – notably the US – the WTO hasn't moved fast enough. Back in 1995, and after signing the North American Free Trade Agreement, the US started to dream up the idea of a whole series of regional free trade areas to accelerate the globalisation agenda. Discussions began to establish the first of these, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Since then, the US has also been trying to develop regional negotiations in Africa and Asia .

The efforts to establish global and regional ‘free trade' agreements have met with considerable resistance. People around the world suffering the effects of so-called free trade have steadily built a movement to reject the dominant economic model. Disapproval was dramatically expressed at the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, where thousands of social activists from all over the world held several days of protest against government ministers from more than eighty countries who were meeting to move forward the globalisation agenda. Since then, discontent has escalated. In 2003, WTO Ministers meeting in Cancún , Mexico faced the largest demonstrations to date, with a strong representation of farmers' movements from many parts of the globe. These protests forced the negotiations to change course. Many non-industrialised nations realised that to continue to surrender their countries and their economies so openly to the WTO's ‘free trade' agenda could have serious political costs. At the same time, the US and Europe could not justify maintaining their subsidies at the same time as demanding the elimination of protection for small family farms in developing countries. As a result, the meeting ended ahead of schedule without having reached any agreements. A few weeks later, the Ministers who were negotiating the FTAA met in Miami . Demonstrations were held again despite an unusually high level of police presence. Again, the manoeuvering room of the Latin American governments was restricted by the social pressures, and Brazil in particular defended certain minimal conditions for its industrial and agricultural sectors, making agreement impossible. As in Cancún, the FTAA meeting in Miami closed early and inconclusively.


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