[Marxism] US forced to retreat significantly on FTAA in Miami -- Walden Bello

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Nov 26 03:37:44 MST 2003

"Leo Girard, president of the United Steelworkers Union... singled out
the contribution of student activists against sweatshops, telling the
story of how earlier in the afternoon, 'on the way to Guzman Park to
attend the People's Forum, we saw a group of students surrounded by
cops and searched. And guess what, hundreds of steelworkers surrounded
the cops and told them to let the students go. And they did.' And that
brought the crowd to its feet."
(but see also Lee Sustar's critique of Gerard's own policies at:
ZNet | Global Economics

People Pour into Miami
Original FTAA Draft Scrapped

by Walden Bello  November 23, 2003

MIAMI -- The United States will try to paint the Miami meeting of the
Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA) as a success, but the reality is
that the opponents have pulled off a victory. This was the assessment
of movement leaders as thousands of protesters from all over the
Americas converged on this city for Friday's March for Global Justice
and the Miami-Dade Country police mounted a massive show of force to
intimidate the opposition.

Protesters not Intimidated

That the people were not cowed was evident at the "Gala for Global
Justice" on the evening of Wednesday, November 19. "Another world" was
the theme of event, which featured a program of music and speeches
from activists from throughout the Americas. Representing the US labor
movement in the program, Leo Girard, president of the United
Steelworkers Union, declared, "We will not let them steal our
sovereignty. This is not just about trade but also about investment
and privileges for greedy investors and financiers. This fight is a
fight for our children and grandchildren." He singled out the
contribution of student activists against sweatshops, telling the
story of how earlier in the afternoon, "on the way to Guzman Park to
attend the People's Forum, we saw a group of students surrounded by
cops and searched. And guess what, hundreds of steelworkers surrounded
the cops and told them to let the students go. And they did." And that
brought the crowd to its feet.

Washington Retreats on FTAA

The big news on Wednesday, however, was the scrapping of the original
FTAA draft. "The US wanted a binding comprehensive agreement with
disciplines all the way through," said one official delegate from a
Latin American country who has participated in the negotiations. "The
draft ministerial declaration coming out of the Trade Negotiations
Committee clearly is a retreat from that."

Instead, the draft proposes a "flexible" process where governments can
decide to exclude some areas from FTAA negotiations for liberalization
even as other governments negotiate liberalization in these areas. As
the declaration unambiguously states, "Ministers recognize that
countries may assume different levels of commitments... In addition,
negotiations should allow for countries that so choose, within the
FTAA, to agree to additional obligations and benefits."

This will allow Brazil and the other members of the Mercosur trade
area to withdraw from negotiations on investment, intellectual
property, government procurement, services, investment, competition
policy, and other areas they do not wish to subject to mandatory
liberalization. At the same time, it will allow the US to continue its
policies of massive subsidization of its agriculture by not joining
negotiations on agriculture. The result is what pundits have called
"FTAA lite" or "FTAA a la carte."

Essentially, the ministerial declaration is the one tabled by Brazil
at the Trade Negotiating Committee meeting in San Salvador last July.
As the Latin American negotiator put it, "Brazil was saying, look,
2003 is different from 1994, when Clinton launched the FTAA
negotiations. Free trade policies has brought about bad results
throughout Latin America. People have ousted neoliberal governments.
There was no way the US was going to get the comprehensive free trade
agreement it wanted today."

To the surprise of many, the US agreed to the Brazilian compromise a
few weeks before Miami. But, according to the Latin American
negotiator, the alternative was another Cancun, referring to the
collapse of the fifth ministerial of the World Trade Organization,
owing to widely disparate positions between Brazil and its allies and
Washington, Canada, and their supporters. This was not another
high-profile setback the Bush administrator could afford coming into
an election year.

Despite the US stand-down, says Timi Gerson, a trade campaigner with
Public Citizen, the Bush Administration will paint Miami as a success.
"They'll say the train has not be derailed, as in Cancun, that it is
leaving Miami with nine boxcars or negotiating areas intact. What
they'll try to conceal is that those boxcars are empty because people
throughout the Americas have refused to go aboard."

Activists Caution Vigilance

To counter Washington's spin on events while calling for continued
vigilance among FTAA forces, the broad alliance Continental Campaign
against the Americas issued the following statement on Wednesday, May
19, shortly after the appearance of the draft declaration:

"We are witnessing in Miami the failure of the original FTAA project,
and at the same time the emergence of a new and perhaps more dangerous
proposal for negotiations.

"The United States will try and present the 'flexible' proposal to
move the negotiations forward as a success of the Ministerial Meeting.
But this is only a faade... Miami has revealed that the United States
has lost its capacity to convince people of the virtues of its 'free'
trade project, and is using force to impose its objectives, trying to
isolate the governments of the continent that are proposing a
different vision."

To Brazilian trade organizer Fatima Mello, although the original FTAA
vision has been disrupted, "So long as the FTAA's framework and basic
principles remain intact, the imposition of neoliberal trade policies
will remain a threat, so it is important to oppose even this
watered-down version of the FTAA."

To cover its tactical retreat on the FTAA, US Trade Representative
Robert Zoellick announced on Wednesday that Washington would launch
negotiations for bilateral free trade pacts with the Dominican
Republic, Panama, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. To Sarah
Anderson, trade analyst of the Institute for Policy Studies in
Washington, the US move is a confession of weakness. "They're
admitting they can't get what they want via the FTAA, and that's
because people and governments are resisting throughout the Americas."

Walden Bello is the executive director of Focus on the Global South
and a member of the Board of Food First

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