What is the FTAA and How Does It Affect Me?

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

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In order to strengthen the economy of America, the FTAA, the Free Trade Areas of the Americas was created. 34 nations are working together to improve the trade laws and regulations. Joining the United States with this goal was: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela. This effort began at the Summit of the Americas, in December 1994 in Miami, Florida. An agreement was reached between the Heads of State and Government for 34 democracies in the region that would eliminate the barriers to trade and investment. They knew this could not be done overnight, and that they would continue to build the FTAA with the hopes of substantial progress by 2000.

They also agreed that the total negotiations would not be complete until possibly 2005.

During the beginning of the FTAA, the 34 elected Ministers developed two work groups. The work groups were established to provide a breakdown of to assist in identifying the trade-related areas they needed to concentrate on. Based on the work groups they developed a Draft Agreement was written. The First Draft Agreement was broke down into nine chapters Agriculture, Government Procurements, Investments, Market Access, Investments, Subsidies (Antidumping and Countervailing Duties), Dispute Settlement, Services, Intellectual Property Rights and Competition Policies. Since 1994 they have revised the draft agreement twice. The most current draft agreement was written in November 2003. Since The First Draft Agreement was written the draft agreement has grown from nine chapters to twenty-four chapters. Some of the additional chapters are: Tariffs and Non-Tariff Measures, Safeguard Measures and General Expectations.

The FTAA is very complicated and governs many different areas so kids my age may find it hard to realize what the FTAA has to do with us. One way the FTAA should be of concern to my piers is this; unless the second proposed clause of the Free Trade Area of the Americas Treaty is deleted Internet music swapping will become a felony offense in 2005. The FTAA will require all countries to change their domestic laws on a wide range of topics, including intellectual property rights. The draft intellectual property rights chapter in the FTAA Agreement changes the criminal procedures and penalties against intellectual property infringements. One clause would require countries to send non-commercial users such as Kaaza or Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharers to prison. It is estimated that 60 million Americans use file-sharing software in the US alone. Many of my friends and relatives are guilty of this as well. I hardly think of these friends as being guilty of a felony.

There is one group called the IP Justice that opposes the entire Intellectual Property Rights section of the treaty. They have asked for the entire chapter to be deleted. They have listed ten issues with the new treaty proposal; their largest concern is the clause that would send file-sharers to prison. The other problems the IP Justice has with the new treaty are: They believe the treaty is limits trade and prevents market competition. The proposed agreement will forbid anyone from bypassing trade barriers such as DVD region code restrictions. The provision would prevent shoppers from buying replacement parts in some industries. One example is this: Ford could embed a chip in a tire that would require customers to only purchase Ford tires.

Anti-circumvention laws outlaw software tools that assist people to bypass restrictions on digital media. Computer programs and research papers that assist in circumventing these restrictions are illegal. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) outlawed circumvention in the US. There is a current bill pending in Congress to repeal this bill. Some people have been threatened with prosecution for their research; for example, one Russian PhD student spent 6 weeks in jail on charges of trafficking in circumvention devices for the legitimate software he had written.

Similar to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, individuals would be prevented from bypassing the technological restrictions on their own CDs, DVD, and other personal property. Consumers would be forbidden from bypassing the restrictions that prevent fast-forwarding of commercials or the misleading FBI warning at the beginning of a DVD movie. I can't imagine not being able to fast-forward through the beginning of a DVD. What right do they have to restrict us from doing that? The draft treaty also imposes new definitions for 'fair use' and 'personal use'. This would prevent people from backing-up their music or movie collections. Another clause would require all countries to amend their copyright laws to extend copyright's term to at least 70 years after the life of the author, essentially forcing the new US standard on all other 33 countries. The FTAA's copyright section would allow companies to copyright facts and scientific data, which are forbidden by the US Constitution.

Another provision in the treaty would require all domain name trademark disputes to be decided by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Americans would no longer be able to go to their local public courts to regarding rights over their Internet domain names.

While I agree that the FTAA has some good qualities, this new proposal to the Intellectual Property Rights chapter seems to be very unfair to me. It should be against the law to share music with my friends. I join the IP justice and agree that this new proposal should be deleted from the treaty. I have signed the petition requesting this to be deleted.

Sources: Foreign Policy In Focus http://www.fpif.org/briefs/vol8/v8n03miami.html File Sharers Would Be Jailed Under FTAA Treaty http://www.mp3newswire.net/stories/2003/ftaa.html IP Justice http://www.ipjustice.org/FTAA//topten.shtml Free Trade Areas of The Americas - FTAA http://www.ftaa-alca.org/alca_e.asp