The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA),currently being negotiated by 34 countries of the Americas, is intended to be the most far-reaching trade agreement in history. Based on the model of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it goes far beyond NAFTA in its scope and power.
In the words of US Secretary of State Colin Powell: ‘Our objective with the FTAA is to guarantee control for North American businesses over a territory which stretches from the Arctic to the Antarctic, free access, over the entire hemisphere, without any difficulty or obstacle, for our products, services, technology and capital.’
The treaty would give transnational corporations unequalled new rights to challenge and compete for publicly funded services currently provided by governments – from healthcare and education to social security, culture and environmental protection.
An unprecedented pan-American alliance of campaigners has mobilized popular education and protest against the trade agreement, which they see as anti-democratic. Previous protests in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Quebec City, Canada, in 2001 resulted in the negotiating text of the agreement, which had been kept secret, being published last July. The beginning of November 2002 will see similar protests in the capital of Ecuador, Quito, as trade ministers meet once more to discuss the treaty. Ecuador is home to the strongest indigenous movement in the Americas, many of whose members are opposed to the FTAA.