Making the Links

A People's Guide to the World Trade Organization and the Free Trade Areas of the Americas

By Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke

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From September 10-14, 2003, the5th Ministerial meeting of theWorldTrade Organization (WTO) will take place in Cancun, Mexico. There, the 146 member countries of theWTO will intensify negotiations to complete theDoha Development Agenda, which was launched at the 4th Ministerial meeting of the WTO in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001.

Much rides on the success or failure of this meeting. The stakes are huge. Powerful governments and their business communities are seeking a major liberalization of services, agriculture and intellectual property rights as well as bold new initiatives on investment, competition and government procurement. WTO leaders – the European Union (EU) and the United States – have set the end of 2004 as the final deadline to conclude this “round” of negotiations. The pressure on smaller countries and reluctant governments in Cancun to sign the deal will be intense.

Two months after Cancun, from November 20-21, 2003, the 8th Trade Ministerial meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) will be held in Miami, Florida. There, the 34 member countries of the Western Hemisphere (except Cuba) will be putting what they hope will be the final touches on a far-reaching free trade and investment regime, dramatically extending both the scope and size of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Like the Doha Round of the WTO, the FTAA is scheduled to be signed by the heads of state by the end of 2004, and then sent to each nation’s capital for ratification in 2005.