The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is an effort to unite the economies of the Western Hemisphere (North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean) into a free trade area where the barriers to trade and investment would be progressively reduced.
This initiative was launched by the hemisphere's Heads of State and Government at the Summit of the Americas, held in Miami in December 1994. The decision regarding the concrete initial steps to achieve the FTAA are contained in the Miami Summit's Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action.
The FTAA is an undertaking by the thirty-four democratic states in the Americas. The negotiations were formally launched in April 1998 at the Second Summit of the Americas held in Santiago, Chile. The Heads of State and Government agreed that the FTAA Agreement will be balanced, comprehensive and WTO-compatible. There are four official languages in the FTAA: English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The Heads of State and Government also agreed to complete negotiations by 2005; and that the FTAA process would take into account the differences in levels of development and size of economies in the Americas in order facilitate full participation by all countries.
Barbados and the FTAA
Barbados has been involved in the FTAA process from its inception in 1994. In the FTAA, regional trading blocs are recognised and negotiate on behalf of their constituents. In this vain, Barbados negotiates as part of CARICOM. The largest trading bloc in the FTAA is CARICOM, with fourteen member states participating in the negotiations. The other trading blocs within the FTAA negotiations are MERCOSUR, the ANDEAN Community and the Group of Central American countries.
The FTAA represents a marketplace of some 854 million persons. This brings a wealth of potential investment and export opportunities to Barbados and the other islands of the Caribbean.
'Barbados and the FTAA: Challenges and Opportunities'
The Heads of Government agreed that negotiations should proceed in nine areas. These are Market Access; Agriculture; Services; Subsidies, Antidumping and Countervailing Duties; Intellectual Property Rights; Investment; Dispute Settlement; Competition Policy; and Government Procurement.
Three Committees and Groups were established to exam common issues across the negotiations. These are the Consultative Group on Smaller Economies, the Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society, and the Joint Government-Private Sector Committee of Experts on Electronic Commerce. Additionally, there is the Technical Committee on Institutional Issues which was established to consider both the general and institutional matters of the FTAA Agreement.
Full text of the Draft Chapters of the FTAA Agreement.
The Trade Ministerial meeting held in Miami in November 2003, heralded a fundamental shift in the scope and structure of the FTAA. At that meeting, the Ministers agreed that countries can choose to negotiate deeper commitments and obligations on a plurilateral basis. This effectively creates a dual-FTAA where one set of commitments and obligations would apply to all contracting parties and another set which would only apply to some.
The negotiations effectively came to a halt following that Ministerial meeting, due to the lack of resolution of some fundamental issues in the negotiations. The Co-Chairs of the FTAA process, Brazil and the United States of America, have been meeting in an effort to provide the necessary impetus to resume negotiations.
At the Second Summit of the Americas, the Heads of State and Government agreed that the negotiations will be transparent, and reiterated that the negotiations must take into account the levels of development and size of the economies in the Americas in order to facilitate their full participation in the FTAA. Additionally a Consultative Group on Smaller Economies was established to examine issues relating to small economies across all nine negotiating groups.
In 2001, the Trade Negotiations Committee (meeting of Vice-Ministers) adopted guidelines and directives for the treatment of differences in the levels of development and size of the economies.
Special and differential treatment is to be accorded to the smaller economies/developing countries in order to assist them to fulfil their commitments and obligations in the Agreement. These generally include flexibility and transitional periods.
One achievement of the Consultative Group on Smaller Economies is the Hemispheric Cooperation Programme (HCP), which was approved by the Trade Ministers in November 2001. The HCP is intended to strengthen the capacities of those countries seeking assistance to participate in the negotiations, implement their trade commitments, and address the challenges and maximize the benefits of hemispheric integration.
Guidelines and Directives
GUIDELINES AND DIRECTIVES FOR THE TREATMENT OF DIFFERENCES IN THE LEVELS OF DEVELOPMENT AND SIZE OF THE ECONOMIES WITHIN THE FTAA NEGOTIATIONS
- Provide a flexible framework that accommodates the characteristics and needs of each one of the countries participating in the FTAA negotiations.
- Be transparent, simple and easily applicable, while recognizing the degree of heterogeneity among the FTAA economies.
- Be determined by each of the Negotiating Groups. Nevertheless, when this treatment refers to topics which are crosscutting or not confined to one
- Negotiating Group, it should be determined by the TNC or other entities designated by the TNC.
- Be determined on the basis of case by case analysis (according to sectors, topics and country/countries).
- Include transitional measures, which could be supported by technical cooperation programs.
- Take into account existing market access conditions among the countries of the Hemisphere.
- Consider longer periods for compliance with obligations.