The Canadian Trade minister boasts that the Free Trade Area of the Americas will create the world’s largest free trade area. The combined population of the 34 Countries will be 800 million people. The combined Gross Domestic Product — the value of the goods and services produced within these countries — will be $ 9 trillion dollars.
But as you look through the agendas below ask yourself these questions.

Which country would have the most power in this trade deal?
roost when they come up with common trade rules?
What will a country like Jamaica or El Salvador get out of this deal?
Below are the agendas for the MAI, FTAA and WTO


What is it?

Multilateral Agreement on Investment, a set of new rules to govern worldwide foreign investment

Who’s in?

The most recent formal discussions of a Multilateral Agreement on Investment have been within the 29 members of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). These members are from the wealthy, industrialized countries of Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.

Where’s it at?

1994 — NAFTA expanded on the new and generous investor rights established in the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement in 1989. These new rules strongly favour the multinational companies.
1996 — The idea of a multilateral investment agreement was floated in the newly established World Trade Organization. WTO Director General proposed a major round of negotiations on NAFTA-like investment rules as a big step towards “constitution of a single global economy.” Developing country delegates, led by Asia, saw these expanded rights for investors as a power grab by the transnationals and said “no!”

1997 — MAI negotiations were taken up in the OECD, the Paris-based research organization providing economic information to the world’s wealthiest countries. The original deadline of spring 1997 was extended to spring 1998, largely in response to widespread mobilization against the MAI led by NGOs, labour and social movements.

October 1996 — A French study criticized the MAI, claiming it allowed private corporations too much power. Under the MAI, private corporations could sue governments for loss of profit when governments regulated or protected for the public good. The French government opted out and the talks collapsed.

1999 — Activists maintain the alert for MAI-like clauses in other trade talks.


What is it?

Free Trade Area of the Americas

Who’s in?

All of the 34 countries in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean except Cuba.

Where’s it at?

1994 — First Summit meeting in Miami where George Bush earlier initiated the “Enterprise of the Americas”, a free trade area to be established by 2005.
1996 — Trade Ministers met in Cartagena, Colombia. They gave the Americas Business Forum the right to table proposals for subsequent Ministerial Meetings; they also established 13 working groups by negotiation topic

1997 — Trade Ministers met in Belo Horizonte. The Americas Business Forum held a parallel meeting. The Interamerican Regional Organization of Workers (ORIT) proposed the establishment of an Americas Labour Forum. It was vetoed. 700 trade unionists and community group activists held a parallel forum ’Our America” and agreed to build a Hemispheric Social Alliance.

1998 — The Second Summit of the Americas was held in Santiago with a Summit of the Peoples of the Americas organized alongside. This included sectoral forums which allowed 2000 labour, environment, women, indigenous people, teachers, parliamentarians and poverty activists to debate their visions of the future of the hemisphere.

1999 — The Hemispheric Social Alliance organizes a parallel forum alongside the Trade Ministers’ meeting in Toronto, called “Our Americas: Creating a People’s Vision of the Hemisphere.


What is it?

World Trade Organization

Who’s in?

134 member-countries and 34 observer countries, as of February 1999

Where’s it at?

January 1995 — The WTO was officially established as guardian of a multilateral trading system, incorporating the old General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). Officially, the WTO was designed to make trade flow freely, serve as a forum for trade negotiations and resolve trade disputes. In practice, the creation of the WTO marks a major step towards increased rights for the transnationals.
1996-1998 — The Uruguay Round Agreement expanded the coverage of the earlier GATT to include intellectual property rights issues, some financial services, and agriculture. Rulings on trade disputes made by anonymous WTO panels of “experts” are now binding on member countries but world powers, especially the US and the EU still dominate the new WTO.

November 1999 — WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle. The corporate world pushes for a “Millennium Round” of negotiations to speed up trade liberalization. Civil society questions the wisdom of opening economies wider without first addressing problems of global labour, environmental sustainability, financial instability and the growing gap between rich and poor.