Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Kit

Who is behind the kit?

This kit was produced by Common Frontiers, a multi-sectoral working group which confronts, and proposes an alternative to, the social, environmental and economic effects of economic integration in the Americas. We do this through a combination of research, analysis and action, in cooperation with labour, human rights, environmental, church, development and economic and social justice organizations.

The kit was produced as a collective effort of many people, some of them acknowledged in the credits. While some of the material in the kit is now dated, it is still useful. An update is coming.

Why was the kit put together?

  • There were three hemispheric gatherings in Canada on the FTAA between 1999 and 2002; so there was a growing number of people who needed briefing about the issues.
  • We have formed a Hemispheric Social Alliance with other organizations throughout the Americas and therefore need an active communications program to keep each other informed.
  • The lack of media coverage of the bottom up process means that we need an active publications program to project our messages to ourselves and others.
  • There are very few materials about trade agreements like the FTAA, especially in a ‘popular’ format accessible to many people.

Who is it for

The kit is intended for use by unions, churches, international NGOs, anti-poverty groups, women’s’ groups, environmental groups, human rights organizations and other popular sector groups interested in how trade and social and economic integration issues impact on their issues.

What´s in the kit

The overview or general pieces can be used by all sectors. They include:

  • Introduction to the kit.
  • The overview: ’Another big deal?” – a history and timetable showing how the FTAA fits into other trade and rights agreements, outlining both the government/business ‘official’ agenda and ‘our agenda’.
  • The Hemispheric Social Alliance – its origins, vision and action program.
  • A poster: ‘Whose Agenda’. One side can be posted; the other side contains some useful resources and statistics.
  • ‘Alternatives for the Americas’. This piece describes an active process and working document, designed to stimulate further debate and education on an alternative vision of the FTAA, focusing on positive proposals.
  • For immediate action: A tear-off postcard to the Prime Minister.

Each sectoral piece outlines:

  • how the key issues in the sector are connected to trade issues;
  • what has been done so far to try to get the needs of the sector into the FTAA;
  • action suggestions and resources.

How can this kit be used?

  • In ongoing education programmes

use the sectoral piece to explain to your members why your union/organization needs to be involved in trade issues.

  • As handouts/Reading materials

use the overview: ‘another big deal?’ and the sectoral piece relevant to your group to introduce your members to the ftaa and other trade agreements.

  • In actions around key moments in the FTAA process

get groups to send those postcards to the prime minister

  • In related campaigns (jubilee, the women’s march etc.)
  • As educational material in your workplace or community centre

post the poster ’Whose Agenda”

  • In workshops and conferences

as conference kit material

as background to a role play or other participatory exercise. (See the IDEA box)

  • As preparation for a media interview
  • As newsletter material

How to get kits…Common Frontiers

Trade Ministers Demonstration

Purpose: Examine how trade affects local issues.

Process: Divide participants into five groups. Assign each a specific sector (e.g. labour, business, low income groups, environment groups, Mexican maquila workers). Give each group some background on the key issues of the sector. (Use some of the materials from the kit). Each group identifies two rights/protections they need in trade agreements.

Have the groups visit a ‘trade fair’ where three resource people with expertise in the MAI, FTAA and NAFTA are present. Each group interviews the resource people to find out whether the rights/protections it needs are included. After a reasonable time, summarize with participants: i) the differing interests which need protection ii) whose interests are served in the present trade deals. (With thanks to Judith Marshall, USWA Humanity Fund)


Produced by: Common Frontiers

Coordination and Editing:
Common Frontiers Publications Committee:
( Patty C. Barrera, Coordinator; Annie Labaj, Canadian Auto Workers (CAW); Judith Marshall, United Steelworkers of America (USWA); John Dillon, Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice (ECEJ). and Bev Burke.

Design, graphics, typesetting: Margie Adam, Artwork

Judith Marshall, Humanity Fund USWA
Patty C. Barrera, Common Frontiers
Bev Brown, National Anti-Poverty Coalition
Ken Traynor, Environmental Law Association
Jo Gunn, Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops)
John Dillon, ECEJ
Jan Eastman, Canadian Teachers Federation
Sheila Katz, Canadian Labour Congress

Trade Speak

APEC             Asia Pacific Economic Council
DFAIT           Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Canada)
FTA                Free Trade Agreement (Between Canada and the United States)
FTAA             Free Trade Area of the Americas
GATT             General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
GDP               Gross Domestic Product
HSA               Hemispheric Social Alliance
ILO                 International Labour Organization
IMF                International Monetary Fund
MAI                Multilateral Agreement on Investment
NAFTA          North American Free Trade Agreement
OAS                Organization of American States
OECD            Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
ORIT              Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers
SAPs               Structural Adjustment Programs (defined below)
UNHCR         United Nations Human Rights Committee
WTO .             World Trade Organization (replaced the GATT in 1995 as regulator of world trade)
Social Agenda: The collection of social rights, measures and standards in contrast to the trade agenda, which focusses only on commercial measures such as tariffs, non-tariff barriers, investment, and subsidies.

Social Charter: A set of social rights for citizens agreed between a group of countries that are removing trade and investment barriers between them, the aim of which is to ensure that standards rise rather than falling when countries with different levels of labour and environment protection form a trading area.

Social Clause: A legal clause which would be inserted into the text of regulations in a trade agreement, and according to which trading partners would agree to respect basic worker rights and abide by minimum labour standards.

Structural Adjustment: Implementation of a set of neo-liberal economic policies, including deregulation of trade and commerce and cutting back on the role of the state.