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Free Trade Area of the Americas

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is a proposed agreement to eliminate or reduce trade barriers among all nations in the Western Hemisphere except Cuba. In the latest round of negotiations, officials of 34 nations began meeting November 16, 2003 in Miami to discuss the proposal, which is intended as a successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

An article in the Washington Times said that Brazil and the United States have been tussling over key points of the proposal, some of which are perceived to provide unfair benefits to wealthy nations:

"Many manufacturers in small, poorer nations are afraid they will be wiped out by more powerful U.S. competitors." [1]

The process was begun with the Summit of the Americas in Miami in April 1994, but was brought to the greatest public attention with the Quebec City Summit of the Americas in 2001, a meeting targeted by massive anti-globalization protests. The previous round of negotiations, which were held on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, ended in October 2003, with an apparent stalemate. A Brazilian delegate, who declined to be identified, said "the meeting revealed major differences."

According to news reports, the US is pushing for a single comprehensive agreement that would cut tariffs on manufactured and agricultural goods while strengthening rules governing services trade, investment, intellectual property protection and government procurement. Brazil, however, which co-chairs the final phase of the FTAA talks with the United States, has proposed a slower, three-track approach that calls for a series of bilateral agreements to cut tariffs and a hemispheric pact on items such as rules of origins and dispute settlement, but leaves more controversial issues to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

For the trade agreement to be on track for its scheduled deployment in 2005, substantial progress will need to be made at the November meeting. However, this meeting at Miami has been cancelled one day ahead of schedule [1], and many issues were left to be discussed by the WTO. At the same time, between 10.000 and 25.000 people from trade unions and the alterglobalization movement have been protesting against the FTAA.

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