Essay on Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)

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What is the FTAA

In 1994, the leaders of the thirty-four democratic countries of the Western Hemisphere launched the process of creating a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The FTAA will be established by 2010 with the aim of gradually eradicating barriers to trade and investment in the region. The final characteristics of the FTAA will be determined through negotiations by government officials from the thirty-four participating countries. The trade issues that are presently under discussion are: market access; investment; services; government procurement; dispute settlement; agriculture; intellectual property; antidumping, subsidies and countervailing duties; and competition policy. Guiding principles for these negotiations
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The objectives and principles also mandate special consideration be given to the smaller, less developed countries of the hemisphere. These provisions reflect both the unique challenges facing the smaller, poorer countries and their influence in a process in which each country, regardless of size, in effect has veto power.

With the FTAA negotiations still at an early stage, it would be useful to remember that the important decisions in multilateral trade talks usually do not get made until the very end, frequently when it appears as though the talks will fail to produce a significant agreement. This pattern is built into the FTAA process as the negotiations are conducted as a single undertaking, and there is no agreement until everything is decided.

The biggest slow down of the negotiations was the continued failure of the U.S. Congress to renew the President Clinton’s fast-track authority, his ability to negotiate trade agreements and submit them to up-or-down votes. The 1994 Miami Summit ended with assurances from President Clinton that he would secure fast-track authority and use it to gain Chile’s admission to NAFTA. Without it, not only has Chile’s admission to NAFTA fallen by the wayside, but there are growing questions about U.S. approval of the final FTAA agreement. Doubts concerning Washington’s resolve and leadership have clouded the negotiations and provided an opening for countries not enthusiastic

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