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U.S. Seattle Coalition Gears Up Campaign Against “NAFTA for the Americas/FTAA” on Eve of Quebec Summit

April 17, 2001

U.S. Seattle Coalition Gears Up Campaign Against “NAFTA for the Americas/FTAA” on Eve of Quebec Summit

More Than 80 U.S. Grassroots Events Scheduled to Coincide with Quebec FTAA Meetings;
Civil Society Leaders Challenge Corporate and Government FTAA Plans

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? U.S. consumer, labor, environmental and other civil society groups this week will bring the spirit of the Quebec City protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) to communities throughout the U.S. with 80 rallies, protests and other events. As tens of thousands of protesters converge on Quebec City to confront the hemispheric leaders attending a regional summit there, similar solidarity events will occur throughout the 34 countries targeted for inclusion in a proposed FTAA NAFTA expansion.

“The attempts to fence off the public from the debate in Quebec City only energized opponents of NAFTA expansion to bring the protest to communities throughout the hemisphere,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen?s Global Trade Watch. “In the U.S., Congress will decide if the president gets authority to expand NAFTA, and so we are bringing the spirit of the Quebec protests to a congressional district near you.”

Added Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, “The broad coalition of corporate globalization critics in the U.S., Canada and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean are mobilized in opposition to this expansion of NAFTA to the entire hemisphere. The day is long gone when people will stand by while the corporations design and implement trade policies that benefit their profits at the expense of working people, the environment and human rights.”

Since its 1994 launch, the FTAA has been negotiated in secret by the U.S. and the 33 other nations in the Western Hemisphere with the exception of Cuba. Although members of Congress and civil society groups have demanded access to FTAA documents, the U.S. Trade Representative?s (USTR) office has made only its finessed “summaries” of U.S. negotiating positions available. At a recent FTAA ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires, the countries agreed to repeat the practice established in negotiations of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) of releasing a “scrubbed” draft text. This text includes bracketed language but deletes references to national positions and interpretive notes that are necessary for elected officials and the public to participate in informed dialogue.

Analysis of the proposed agreement has been possible because several environmental and labor representatives have been given the security clearance enjoyed by over 500 corporate representatives who are official U.S. corporate trade advisors. The proposed FTAA is based on the NAFTA model, which places new restrictions on governments? abilities to regulate in the public interest while establishing new privileges and powers for investors and corporations.