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Criticism of the Free Trade Area for the Americas -ALCA

Criticism of the Free Trade Area for the Americas -ALCA

By Aurelio Suarez Montoya

The treaty, signed in December 2004 by the presidents of 34 American countries to form the Free Trade Area for the Americas -ALCA- is not free trade and is much more than "free trade." The first of the previous statements is based on the absence, almost completely, of the premises that characterize free competition.

The treaty, which in December 2004 the presidents of 34 American countries would sign to form the Free Trade Area for the Americas -ALCA- is not free trade and is much more than "free trade." Already Joseph Stiglitz in his well-known works highlights the general imperfection of contemporary markets as something evident.

In the case of the countries that make up the FTAA, such imperfection is overwhelming. According to the value of the total Gross Domestic Product of these 34 nations, for 2002, the United States was 78.7%, Brazil was 6% and Canada 5.5% and the other 31 countries, among all, barely added the remaining 9.8%. Colombia, although it occupies the sixth place, is not even one dollar of every one hundred of those produced annually in the Continent. The United States also accounts for 63% of imports, 55% of imports and, in terms of consumption, it is, with an income per inhabitant that is seven times that of Mexico, ten times that of Brazil and is more than 15 times that of of Colombia, the center of hemispheric purchases. Finally, for every dollar that Colombia sells abroad, the United States sells 150.

This immense inequality, which fashionable economists lukewarmly call "asymmetry", and which is even greater for other countries in worse conditions than Colombia, which will not be saved, nor the hypothetical special considerations for smaller economies, allows us to conclude that Undoubtedly, the FTAA will consecrate, because of the above, the North American economic dominance under a scheme of elimination of commercial barriers, which in such dire conditions will be precisely the denial of free competition. It is then a complete and broader opening than that of the last twelve years and, therefore, its terrible consequences will have a higher scale of severity. With good reason, a peasant from Antioquia baptized it "ALCAido ... to fall", although the coastal people also refer to this agreement as "ALCArajo ... the fallen one."

Among the planned sequels there is one that hides behind the gringo hegemony. When US foreign trade is analyzed, it is found that, first of all, it acquires natural resources, such as oil, copper, coal, aluminum, and tin, and tropical fruits such as coffee, bananas, cocoa, cane sugar, and flowers, fruits, foliage and tropical forest, among others. In other words, products that are manufactured and exported by three-quarters of the countries that are signatories to the agreement. The United States would have at its complete disposal a wide range of suppliers that would compete with each other for the much-touted "access to the world's largest market." The other line that the United States buys the most is that of final consumer goods. It is worth noting that such goods correspond to products manufactured under the assembly system as in Mexico, such as Central American maquilas and, recently, ATPDEA merchandise. All of them have a common element: the bulk of the inputs or the parts that compose them, have been supplied by the United States and the value added corresponds to that of a debased labor force. In the case of Mexico, semi-finished raw materials are equivalent to 97% of the value of the merchandise. North America also provides the equipment for the work of these factories that it has set up beyond its borders with the charm of cheap labor. Here's another source of competition among the poor: the notorious low-wage competitiveness.

Indeed, in the case of the manufacturing industry in 1999, the hourly wage in Chile and Brazil was one seventh that of the United States, that of Cosa Rica one eighth, that of the Dominican Republic and that of El Salvador was one ninth. from Panama, Mexico, Colombia and Paraguay it was eleventh and the rest from there down. It turns out, then, a great business to send the pieces so that the workers from the south of the Continent gather them cheaply. But it is a better business if they also compete with each other for who does it with greater deprivation and lower remuneration; in short, for who is able to endure more hunger. The FTAA will bring with it a special form of competition, of the many that occur in the confrontation of globalization, it will be competition between the needy to be able to survive within the framework of the North American economic model, this is the most damaging of competencies.

The source of inspiration for such a model had to be the large multinational firms that control more than half of the international trade in America. For this reason, it is understandable that when the presidents of America in December 1994 in Miami ordered their foreign trade ministers to implement the FTAA, they instructed them, as can be read in the respective Presidential Declaration, to meet within the framework of business forums. of investment and trade that would be carried out simultaneously with the ministerial summits. Many paragraphs, not a few articles, clauses, ordinal and cardinal were provided by technicians and lawyers of multinational companies which have even been part of some national delegations. Today a complaint is filed by a union in the Council of State of Colombia for this reason.

national pharmaceutical industry because of these procedures. There can be no other different explanation for the fact that in the second draft of the Treaty, in the several hundred pages of fine print of the almost ten chapters that make it up, all types of routines, maneuvers and commercial and financial operations are recorded. they are typical of large international consortia and have little or nothing to do with the productive mode of peasants, microentrepreneurs, ordinary citizens or non-monopoly national companies. This also explains, to a large extent, the secrecy and privacy with which almost eight years of negotiations have been conducted, the first draft of which only appeared in mid-2002.

The foregoing is something unheard of: a document of such characteristics will be elevated to the status of an international, irreversible, binding and controlled by supranational committees, which will prevail over national legislation. In which, as said, provisions and measures are enshrined that consult the ambitions and prerogatives of the cream of the imperial economy, assorted through business forums. There the details are established that, after all, as Machiavelli says, is "where the devil is."

And it is precisely such a demon that allows us to ratify what was initially said: the FTAA is also much more than that "free trade." In the recent words of the Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorín, it can be said that there are "regulatory aspects for services, investments, government purchases and intellectual property that directly affect the regulatory capacity of the countries." And these others, from Dr. Emilio Sardi, vice president of TECNOQUÍMICAS, are even more forceful: "In the FTAA negotiation, not only are they discussing tariffs, but also a lot of other things. What these companies that pressure for the FTAA are trying to do is set up a legal framework to restrict local competition and take over the internal market. They are discussing, for example, rules on intellectual property, competition, conflict resolution, state contracting. That is, they want to review the entire legal framework and impose on us the one that gives competitive advantages to your companies ".

For this reason, the Agreement has been characterized as "a soup of hooks". The Market Access chapter prescribes free trade, in all its forms, both for finished goods and for the parts that compose them, for finished shirts and, likewise, for sleeves, cuffs and neck, it is "maquila to the letter". Agriculture deals primarily with the free "commercialization of agricultural products" with which producers are at the mercy of the small group of multinationals of this type of trade, which will move freely, taking from one place to another whatever is most. of its convenience and subjecting rural production to this traffic with which, in addition, nations will run the risk of allowing food to be produced for their population, compromising their "food sovereignty." This will be felt more rigorously in tropical countries like Colombia. The conditions of the FTAA have predicted a fixed defeat in cereals, including rice, oilseeds, milk, chicken and potatoes, among the most prominent. As an insult, our success is also announced in pitahaya, granadilla and cape gooseberry, laxative genres, and, according to today's news in borojó and chontaduro, cassava, cocoa and African palm, the latter commercialized almost by the same firms that sank our coffee and that now, in the FTAA, they say they are going to save us with these genres.

From the document and current facts already known, it is also known that subsidies to North American agricultural products, but also Canadian and even Brazilian ones, will continue to be unchanged and, subject, as stated in the FTAA draft, to what is available in this regard in the WTO . This instrument, which is presented as a naive subsidy or at most as a "commercial" distortion, is much more: it is a strategic weapon of political control to defeat food production in the weakest countries, increasing their vulnerability, it is much more than economy, as George W. Bush himself puts it: "Can you imagine a country that was not capable of growing enough food to feed its population? It would be a nation exposed to international pressure. It would be a vulnerable nation. And that is why, when we talk about North American agriculture, we are actually talking about a question of national security. "The subsidies are then, really," smart bombs ", they can be classified as true weapons of mass destruction that in the last decade between we have already wreaked havoc.

In the chapters on investment, services and purchases of the public sector, reiterating the paradigms

of the Washington Consensus, which consider foreign investment as the prima donna of society, are established, by exempting it from any control even in the form of "swallow capital", speculation, with the most terrifying effects on macroeconomic stability, the plunder for the privatization of every last possible investment niche in the service area and the search for any contract, concession or public tender that is attractive to them.

And, in terms of regulations, those of competition policy and dispute resolution, which creates a new legal system in the FTAA, which begins by granting the status of subject in international law, the main de facto subject, to groups. corporations, a new code of "procedural economy" and "prompt settlement", to do privatized justice, complement each other. This duo of tools, orchestrated in a typical "jack-in-the-box", makes it easier for the FTAA profiteers to act with absolute security and full guarantees, as Mr. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, loves to repeat that " capital is a coward, only going where it feels safe. "

Finally, the chapter on Intellectual Property deserves special reference. In it, under different forms of property such as patents, registered trademarks, obtaining rights, copyrights and special protection, a monopoly income is created for inventors. And, although this mechanism is advertised as a defense of national invention, it cannot be forgotten that in this area so-called "asymmetries" do occur. In 1996, for example, the United States had 218,642 patents registered in its system, the most important in the world and in the FTAA. In 1998, IBM registered 2,657 patents, more than 7 per calendar day, and the five most important companies in the agricultural biotechnology sector directly or indirectly own about 50% of the patents in the sector. The United States accounts for 40% of the world's annual research and development budget and has a multi-billion dollar surplus for that item. This "invention" of intellectual property is especially expensive for low- and middle-income countries in areas as sensitive as health, as intellectual property has been imposed for decades on the formulas of drugs for diseases such as HIV, cancer, hepatitis and others. . Also on nutrition by decreeing on seeds and agrochemicals, MONSANTO owns 91% of the patents for soybeans, and on industrial development as it is in force for technical and scientific discoveries for many years. In the FTAA, poor America is going to enter the world of the monopoly rents thus constituted, where the most absurd of markets is configured: a single supply with a demand that the more it consumes of a good, contrary to the laws The more elementary economic rationality, the more you will have to pay.

To conclude what I have said about the FTAA, in what is not free trade, let it be the editorialist of The New York Times of July 20, 2003, who assists me: "By manipulating the game of global trade against Farmers in developing countries, Europe, the United States and Japan are in essence kicking down the development ladder for some of the world's most desperate people. Is this morally depraved? By our actions are we reaping poverty around the world? Hypocrisy exacerbates outrage. The United States and Europe master the art of forcing the open economies of poor nations to import industrial goods and services? It turns out that globalization may be a one-way street? After all that in The reality will be up for discussion, despite the soporific business jargon, is whether or not a globalized economy has room for the world's poorest farmers. " Nothing said in this presentation is neither far from reality nor apocalyptic, it is contemporary reality also recognized from the depths of the Empire's media.

And as far as it is much more than free trade, help the text "Dying for Growth" by Brooke Schoepf, Claude Schoepf and Joyce Millen on European colonialism in Africa: "Colonialism was a time of capitalist monopoly. Europe. established plantations to grow highly marketable products, mines and transportation systems to facilitate the extraction of resources. Roads and roads were designed for the export of goods, not for communications or internal economic developments in Africa? Colonialism devastated social structures? Were people forced by taxes and coercion to work in colonial enterprises where they were overstretched and underfed. Agriculture suffered, food production declined, and then there was lack of food, famines and epidemics? Colonialism destroyed the African economy and the agricultural system and replaced them with systems, infrastructures and class structures designed for export d e goods and exploitation of African labor and primary resources for European benefit. " There is no doubt whatsoever about the great identities in what happened in Africa and what today it is proposed to do with Latin America.
No to the FTAA!

* Lecture by Aurelio Suarez Montoya at the Conservatory on the FTAA convened by the honorable council of the Municipality of Pereira, Colombia. (July 28, 2003)


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