HEMISPHERIC CONFERENCE OF PARLIAMENTARIANS: THE FTAA AND THE ROLE OF NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS IN THE REGION
We Parliamentarians of Mexico, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Nicaragua,. Ecuador, El Salvador, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia meeting in Quito October 29-30, 2002, during the "Hemispheric Conference on FTAA and the Role of National Parliaments" issue the following declaration before the Seventh Ministerial Conference for the Negotiation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), based on the following considerations:
First, As delegates and representatives of democratic states, we have the inalienable responsibility to legislate on behalf of the general welfare and therefore to improve the quality of life for our nations' communities.
Second, That, in spite of the fact that democratic and sovereign states can only exist and survive with an appropriate system of public information and citizen participation and with a strong legislative body, the citizens of our countries and our Parliaments have not been recognized by those who are negotiating the FTAA. The draft texts of the FTAA have been produced in a secretive manner: in closed sessions based on an arbitrary schedule, and restricted access to incomplete documentation.
Third, That whatever agreement on "free trade" is a political decision that affects decisively the living conditions of our citizens, as well as their democratic rights and, therefore, it should be widely known, analyzed, debated and passed by the national Parliaments and approved by the citizens as a whole.
Fourth, That the great powers have control over the development of science and technology, markets, industry, commerce, finance, agriculture and services, to which they grant subsidies to their own production creating conditions with which Latin American countries are not able to compete.
Fifth, That the formula of "free trade" promoted under the FTAA establishes policies that will open markets indiscriminately -- destroying industrial and agricultural production, eliminating the rights of workers, undermining consumer protection, increasing public debt and endangering the conservation of economic and natural resources.
Sixth, That the FTAA as it has been conceived will reinforce structural adjustment and the privatization of essential public serves such as water, social security, education, electricity and communications, transforming citizens into customers and clients of transnational corporations.
Seventh, That the FTAA is intended to consolidate control over strategic resources such as oil, water, biodiversity and traditional knowledge, through patents and intellectual property rights among other mechanisms, in the hands of transnational corporations -- primarily in the interests of one unique power: the United States, which seeks to capture for these companies a market of 800 million consumers and centralize the regular flow of resources from the southern reaches of the continent towards its own terrritory.
Eighth, That other initiatives promoted by the United States such as the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Plan Puebla-Panama, and the road to the FTAA are designed to sustain the hegemony of this country to the detriment of our own peoples' development.
Ninth, That the deadline for completing the negotiation of the FTAA and its entry into force in 2005 is not acceptable, since it would require countries to adapt their legal, economic and political procedures, sacrifice their national agendas, and violate the democratic rights of the citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean who clamor for social change, justice and dignity.
AS ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES, WE ARE CONSCIOUS OF OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO THE PUBLIC REGARDING THE FTAA, AND THEREFORE WE DECLARE OUR INTENTION:
First, To invite national Parliaments, as the representatives of the American peoples, to discuss and decide all of the international commercial agreements, as far as these may affect democracy and the living conditions of all the citizens of the Continent, and to establish national agendas regarding regional integration. To this effect, we suggest that where they do not now exist, special parliamentary commissions should be established to develop such agendas for the FTAA and other like agreements for commercial integration.
Second, To proceed as a first step in such discussions with an evaluation of the processes and results of current international agreements such as the NAFTA, WTO, Plan Puebla-Panama and others.
Third, To make proposals for the integration of our peoples that will respect their dignity and rights to self-determination. Any process of integration must be equitable and sustainable, and must satisfy the needs of the 70% of our population that presently live in extreme poverty. It must also alter the terms of trade: 70% of our exports now consist of natural resources and primary goods.
Fourth, To commit ourselves to the broad distribution of the draft texts of the negotiations, clearly identifying which countries have presented or support each proposal, and to seek an end to the secretiveness that now characterizes these negotiations.
Fifth, To elicit the broadest possible national consensus among the business community, indigenous peoples, farmers, workers, and the general public in order to support our domestic markets as the foundation for development in each nation.
Sixth, To request of our Parliamentary leaders that they establish a special Commission to open the continental debate and monitor every negotiation for free trade in order to ensure citizen participation, in conformance with our mandate as public representatives.
Seventh, To reject the FTAA itself and exhort our governments to withdraw their delegations from the current round of negotiations, striving instead to strengthen the agreements and bodies of integration in Latin America and the Caribbean, such as the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), the Market of the Southern Cone (MERCOSUR), and the Commercial Zone of the Caribbean (CARICOM), among others.
Eighth, Finally, to express our appreciation to the Honorable National Congress of Ecuador and the Institute for Ecological Studies of the Third World, who have offered their distinguished and effective support for this parliamentary conference, contributing greatly to its success.
Another form of integration is possible!
Finalized in Quito, October 30, 2002
Signatories (as of 10/20/02):
Antonio Posso, Ecuador
Andres Aguilar M., Ecudaor
Ritha Fletes, Nicaragua
Javier Diez Canseco (delegado en Aída García), Perú