Everyone is as small as the fear they feel, and as big as the enemy they choose.

Old Antonio,
a Latino wise man

Our Americas are your lands, our Americas are my lands

from Canada’s ice caps to Chile’s mountains.

From Brazilian forests to Caribbean islands

These lands belong to you and me.

To be sung to the tune of “This Land is Your Land

Our Agenda

Action Canada Network, a broad grouping of labour, environment, community and cultural activists, emerges in response to announcement of plans for a Free Trade Agreement with the US. Spontaneous popular upsurge to protect Canadian sovereignty and culture.

Common Frontiers, a coalition formed to promote links with US and Mexican trade activists, organizes a 45-person delegation to Mexico of labour, environmentalists and community activists. They meet with Mexican counterparts alongside a NAFTA Ministerial and put their experiences with the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement on the table. RMALC B Mexican Action Network on Free Trade B formed soon after.

Activists work internationally to pressure their governments to sign on to economic and social rights and protections through a cycle of UN Conferences. Organizations in different countries jointly mount a “Social Watch” to monitor progress. They document little or no compliance with commitments made by their governments. Canadians report to the UN in 1998 and 1999 that their government has actively dismantled rights and protections, particularly for the poor.

We have seen the damage done to our families such as massive layoffs, due to the NAFTA. The jobs in Canada are already going to countries with no labour unions, inadequate environmental protection, and no binding legislation holding companies to sustainable management of resources. MAI seeks to take this destruction further. If ownership, consumer protection, environmental protection and human rights protection is no longer in the hands of our governments, what is left of our country? The picture of what we will inherit is bleak. We would no longer be citizens with national pride and distinction but nameless and faceless consumers.

Amy Mintzler and Tera-Lynn Copp, Grade 12, St. Angel’s Academy, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Another Big Deal!

Team Canada is taking us into yet another trade deal. Business and government officials are now actively promoting the creation of the largest trading bloc in the world, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). It will include 34 countries extending from the most northern communities of Canada to the most southern settlements of Chile. The combined Gross Domestic Product of the countries in the new deal is $9 million. The FTAA will impact the lives of 800 million people throughout the Americas B and most of us have never heard of it! The FTAA was launched in 1994 when US President Bill Clinton invited 33 other government leaders to set an agenda for the future of the Americas. Top of the list at their Summit in Miami was free trade, expanding NAFTA throughout the Americas. The leaders also identified a long list of non-trade issues, from democracy and poverty to drug control and education, and a so-called action plan to deal with them. Momentum has been maintained on the trade deal through annual meetings of the 34 trade ministers, but the negotiating process has been tough. In addition to the general context of global economic instability, melt-downs and the widening rich-poor divide:

US free traders have been crippled by their inability to get their government’s approval to “fast track@ the negotiations. Without it, anything agreed to at the FTAA negotiating table can later be picked apart by the US Congress. So far, American trade activists have been successful in their demands that labour and environmental protections be guaranteed before Afast track@ approval is given. Leaders from other trading blocs like Mercosur (where Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay participate as equals and where new regional political and social institutions have been created) are asking why NAFTA has to be taken as the model for the FTAA. Small economies are wondering what=s in it for them, since the seven largest economies in the FTAA alone produce 95 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.

In democracies, all are not equal!

Team Canada Plays
Host to the Americas

Canada is not only the current chair of the negotiating process; it will also host all major FTAA events over the next two years. So get ready for parallel action.

July-Aug/99 Pan American Games Winnipeg
Sept/99 FTAA Spouses
(all wives)
Nov/99 FTAA Trade Ministers Toronto
June/00 Organization of American States Windsor
Oct/01 II Summit of the Americas Quebec City
What’s On the Negotiating Table
Nine Working Groups:
Their official names are:

  • Market Access
  • Agriculture
  • Investment Services
  • Government Procurement
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Subsidies
  • Anti-Dumping & Countervailing Duties
  • Competition Policy
  • Dispute Settlement
Three special committees
  • Consultative Group on Smaller Economies
  • Joint Committee of Experts on Electronic Commerce
  • Committee of Government Representatives on Civil Society Participation

“Regulatory Chill”
“Profits vs. Public Good”

“How can you do your job as a regulator if every law you write or enforce may land you with another multimillion-dollar lawsuit?” So asks a June 1999 study carried out by the International Institute on Sustainable Development on the NAFTA investment chapter. It documents how investors and their lawyers have taken NAFTA clauses meant to protect companies against expropriation and “exploited them to fight for lost profits and lost business opportunities because of environmental or health measures.”

Leaders of all 35 countries of the Americas – except Cuba B meet in Miami at President Clinton’s invitation to set future agenda of the Americas.

SIRG (Summit Implementation Review Group)

Implementation of the action plan on the 23 non-trade initiatives identified at the Miami Summit in 1994 rests in the hands of the OAS (Organization of Americas States), the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) and ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin American Countries), a UN body. Compliance is mainly through whatever moral pressure is generated during the periodic country reports to the Summit Implementation Review Group, SIRG.

 “We are convinced that the Americas do not need free trade. They need fair trade, regulated investment and a conscious consumer strategy.” Final Declaration, May 1997

More than 700 labour, environment, social movement and NGO activists debate their vision of the Americas alongside an FTAA Trade Ministerial. At the parallel event, “Our Americas” which was organized by the Brazilian labour centrals and the Interamerican Regional Workers Organization, those present commit to building a “Hemispheric Social Alliance”.

Two thousand representatives of civil society gather in Santiago alongside the II Summit of the Americas to further shape the “Hemispheric Social Alliance.” Broad questions of globalization, jobs, social exclusion, democracy and sustainability are debated within 11 sectoral forums. These include such sectors as women, labour, environment, indigenous people and parliamentarians. Commitment reaffirmed to building a common, alternative citizens’ agenda for the Americas.

An Americas Civil Society Forum – Our Americas: Creating a Peoples’ Vision of the Hemisphere will be organized alongside the FTAA Trade Ministerial in Toronto in November 1999. North-south teams draft policy recommendations , the first on Investment, Finance and Debt and the second on Social Exclusion, Jobs and Poverty, to be circulated throughout the hemisphere for comments, additions and sign on. These will be finalized at the Toronto Forum and presented to the FTAA Trade Ministers.

How You and Your Organization Can Get Involved

  • Learn about the FTAA – and other trade agreements like the MAI and the WTO. Use the Trade Action Kit , Common Frontiers’ web site, networking, etc.
  • Get active in building the Hemispheric Social Alliance. 
    Join activists from other countries of the Americas in events parallel to the official FTAA meetings. Next parallel events will happen in Toronto – labour and civil society forums October 31 to November 3., 1999.
  • Learn from big business!
    Transnational corporations are making sure the rights they want are included in trade agreements. Make sure your MP and MPP get your rights and protections in there too.
  • Study another language of the hemisphere
    Spanish, English, Portuguese or French.
  • Step into the shoes of other people in the Americas
    Ask your organization about people to people exchanges. Plan a study visit or alternative kind of tourism.
  • Don’t just talk about alternatives be the alternative. 
    Get involved in cooperatives, credit unions, worker-ownership, fair trade, community kitchens, trade unions, neighbourhood movements, community economic development, credit circles, or any other place where people act on the basis of solidarity and inclusion instead of competition and profit.
  • Most important of all, maintain your conviction that other kinds of globalization are possible and have the courage to make them happen.