Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. What is it? Current Status. Obstacles to passage.

Essay by buckwheat451University, Bachelor's December 2003

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Free Trade Agreement of the Americas

The Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) is a trade agreement currently in the process of being negotiated between every country in the Americas, except Cuba. It is essentially an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to encompass the Western Hemisphere. The FTAA was formally launched at the First Summit of the Americas, held in Miami in December 1994. At the beginning of that year, the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA (Canada, Mexico and the United States) officially came into effect. The expansion of that accord to the rest of the hemisphere (excluding Cuba) is the goal of the FTAA. The agreement is expected to be complete in January 2005.

The Free Trade Agreement of the Americas would eliminate or reduce trade barriers among all countries in the Western Hemisphere except Cuba, creating a free-trade zone stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

All the negotiating groups have held meetings at two to three month intervals during the last two years. Negotiators have laid out the positions of their governments on the nine core issues. During the last four meetings--in Quebec City in April 2000, Buenos Aires in April 2001, Quito, Ecuador in October 2002, and Miami, Florida in November 2003 (where major citizen protests took place) --negotiators tried to work out differences in the draft texts. The next meeting will be held in Brazil in 2004.

Groups and individuals including labor unions, farmers and environmentalists complain that the FTAA will take thousands of jobs to other countries, reduce workers' rights by exploiting cheap labor and drain natural resources.

Significant challenges will need to be overcome to successfully conclude this agreement. Hard bargaining will be required to turn the accumulation of proposals currently on the table into a...