Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the
Free Trade Area of the Americas
In recent years, representatives from 34 countries have been working to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is another example of the free-market fundamentalism that has created a global race-to-the-bottom that threatens the environment, families' livelihoods, human rights, and democracy. Once again, a sweeping "free trade" agreement is in the works that puts commercial interests above all other values.
1. The FTAA Expands a Proven Disaster
The FTAA is essentially an expansion of NAFTA. But NAFTA has proven to be a nightmare for working families and the environment. A look at NAFTA's legacy shows why these kinds of "free trade" agreements should be opposed. Working families suffer: In the US, more than 765,000 jobs have disappeared as a result of NAFTA. When these laid off workers find new jobs, they earn 23 percent less on average than at their previous employment. In Mexico, manufacturing wages fell 21 percent from 1995 to 1999, and have only started to recover. The percentage of Mexicans living in poverty has also grown since NAFTA went into effect. The environment suffers: In the maquiladora zones along the US-Mexico border, the increased pollution and the improper disposal of chemical wastes have dramatically raised rates of hepatitis and birth defects. NAFTA should be repealed, not expanded.
2. The Agreement Is Being Written Without Citizen Input
Despite repeated calls for the open and democratic development of trade policy, the FTAA negotiations have been conducted without citizen input. A process has been set up to solicit citizens' views, but there is no real mechanism to incorporate the public's concerns into the actual negotiations. The public has been given nothing more than a suggestion box. At the same time, however, hundreds of corporate representatives are advising the US negotiators and have advance access to the negotiating texts. While citizens are left in the dark, corporations are helping to write the rules for the FTAA.
3. The Agreement Will Undermine Labor Rights and Cause Further Job Loss
The NAFTA experience demonstrates how basic labor rights and the interests of working families are eroded by "free trade" agreements that lack enforceable labor protections. Corporations move high-paying jobs to countries with lower wages and bust unionization drives with threats to transfer production abroad. According to a Cornell University study, since NAFTA two-thirds of manufacturing and communications companies faced with union organizing campaigns threatened workers with moving their jobs abroad. This "race-to-the-bottom" will accelerate under the FTAA as corporations pit exploited workers in Mexico against even more desperate workers in countries such as Haiti and Guatemala. Already, Mexico is losing maquiladora jobs to countries with cheaper wages. In...