What is the FTAA?
The FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) is a proposed expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to include all of the countries in N. America, S. America, and the Caribbean (except Cuba).
Who does it affect?
It directly affects the lives of each and every Canadian, as well of all of the people in the 33 other countries.
Why are so many people protesting against the FTAA?
It is not accurate to say that the FTAA is only about trade. It would be more accurate to say that the FTAA is a corporate bill of rights. Free trade deals such as NAFTA, the WTO, and now the FTAA value profits above all else, so environmental and human rights laws can be seen as barriers to trade. These deals give corporations the power to overturn such laws, as they have done numerous times. The FTAA will increase the rights of corporations at the expense of people's right to make democratic decisions.
Who is developing the FTAA?
The FTAA is being developed with alaming secrecy, our elected members of parliament in Ottawa are not even allowed to see it. The FTAA is being worked on by a select few politicians from each country involved, along with the input of the 500 largest American corporations.
Does free trade make a country richer?
Free trade makes the rich people richer and the poor people poorer. The growing gap between the rich and poor is a direct result of the free trade deals being created by the rich and powerful elite for their own benefit. Between 1992 and 1996, the income of the bottom-half of the Canadian popultaion decreased by 5.8%, while the income for the top-half increade by 4.4%. This trend will continue unless free trade is replaced by fair trade.
How does free trade affect workers' rights?
Routine threats to move production are used to force workers to accept lower wages and benefit packages, destabilizing trade unions. Canadian workers have lost more than 137,000 highly paid industrial jobs since NAFTA began. Most new jobs in Canada are non-unionized and temporary or part time -- 45% of the workforce is now engaged in "flexible" labour.
How does free trade affect the environment?
The FTAA will inhibit the rights of governments to create environmental laws. This has already been seen through NAFTA many times. Any strict environmental laws that may be created by countries involved in the FTAA can beseen as barriers to trade, and corporations will have the right to sue governments and overturn these laws. This has been referred to as the race to the bottom. Not only the present governments, but also the future governments wull have their hands tied, and will be unable o make any serious efforts to protect our environment.
How is publicly funded education and health care affected?
The FTAA will push to privatize publicly run services. The president of the world's for-profit hospital corporation has said, "Health care is a business no different than the airline or ball-bearing industry." He has also vowed to "destroy" every public hospital in North America. It is these types of corporations that are directly involved in developing the FTAA.
Some of the previous problems with free trade
- Local residents in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, forced the state to block the opening of a hazardous waste incinerator by the US company Metalclad. A geological audit had shown that the project would have poisoned the local drinking water. Under NAFTA, Metalclad successfully sued the Mexican government for US $19 million.
- In 1997, the Chretien government banned the toxic gasoline additive MMT. The US corporation Ethyl Corp. threatened to sue Canada for loss of profits, so Canada paid US $13 million to the company and repealed the ban on the dangerous toxin that has been proven to attack the human nervous system. (MMT is banned in almost all US states.)
- UPS is currently suing Canada Post for $230 million for unfair competition. The federal government subsidizes the Canada Post service so that people in rural, as well as urban areas, can have affordable postal services. If UPS is successful (as they are likely to be), postal rates are not likely to remain subsidized.
- The US made an effort to protect dolphins from hazardous tuno fishing methods. The country banned the imports of tuna from countries that did not make the efforts to protect dolphins, so Mexico complained to the WTO. In 1991, the US was forced to accept foreign tuna -- no matter how it was caught. Rulings like this have effectively killed any hopes of protecting wildlife.
What you can do:
- Read more about the FTAA and free trade.
- Talk to people about free trade.
- Join in peaceful protests against the WTO.
If you have any questions about the FTAA, WTO, ar NAFTA, please email fightfreetrade at yahoo.com.
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