Updated June 9, 2003

First and Second Summits of the Americas

FREE TRADE AREA OF THE AMERICAS (FTAA)

Official FTAA site:  http://www.ftaa-alca.org/
Americas Business Forum: http://www.americascanada.org/eventabf/menu-e.asp
Foreign Trade Information Service: http://www.sice.oas.org/ 
OAS Trade Unit: http://www.sice.oas.org/TUnit/tunite.asp  

The countries that will hold the Chair and Vice-chair of the FTAA process will be:

-  May 1, 1998 to October 31, 1999: Canada, Chair; Argentina, Vice-Chair
-  November 1, 1999 to April 30, 2001: Argentina, Chair; Ecuador, Vice-Chair
-  May 1, 2001 to October 31, 2002: Ecuador, Chair; Chile, Vice-Chair
-  November 1, 2002 to December 31, 2004: Co-Chair between Brazil and the United States of America.

The Tripartite Committee composed of the Organization of American States (Trade Unit), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) provides technical support to the FTAA process. In addition, the new Secretariat to the FTAA Process is responsible for providing secretariat services and logistical support to the on-going negotiations.

First Summit of the Americas, Miami, U.S.A. (December 1994)

The First Summit of the Americas in Miami set the groundwork for the FTAA. The Summit’s Plan of Action, in proposing the FTAA Agreement, gave its blessing to the GATT/ WTO process and committed to the underlying tenets of the GATT. Hallmarks of hemispheric free trade were trade liberalization, transparency, market access, and economic integration.  FTAA also committed  to the promotion of environmental standards and workers' rights. The Summit focused on the following areas: tariffs and non-tariff barriers affecting the trade of goods and services, agriculture, subsidies, investment, intellectual property rights, government procurement, technical barriers to trade, safeguards, rules of origin, antidumping and countervailing duties, sanitary and phytosanitary standards and procedures, dispute resolution, and competition policy. The Organization of American States was directed to assist the host country in arranging ministerial meetings.

The 9 cornerstones of the FTAA process, enunciated in Initiative 9 of the Miami Summit’s Plan of Action, are summarized below:

  1. A strong commitment to multilateral rules and disciplines, which are consistent with GATT/WTO and other sub-regional trade agreements consistent therewith.
  2. Pursuing trade liberalization and sub-regional integration, avoiding disguised restrictions on trade, and ensuring sustainable development and worker rights.
  3. Building upon existing agreements in the hemisphere, thus maximizing openness.
  4. Recognition of the sovereign right of each nation to implement international commitments in harmony and accordance with its own legislation and procedures;
  5. Technical assistance to the smaller nations to facilitate integration into the agreement.
  6. Continuation of meetings under existing trade and investment fora in order to determine areas of commonality or divergence and to insure an environment of openness for ministers to make recommendations to the FTAA process.
  7. Transparency for all sub-regional and bilateral agreements in order to advance trade and investment integration in the Americas, with technical assistance from the Tripartite Committee.
  8. Ongoing participation, review, and guidance of the ministers responsible for trade.
  9. OAS assistance in arranging ministerial meetings.

The FTAA is one part of the Summit process. When realized, the FTAA will be the largest free trade agreement in history, with an expected combined GDP of over $9 trillion, and a market of some 650 million people.

Between the Summits (January 1995- March 1998)

Four major ministerial meetings were held to advance the FTAA agenda in concordance with the schedule mandated in Miami. These took place in Denver (June, 1995), Cartagena (March, 1996), Belo Horizonte (May, 1997), and San Jose (March, 1998).  The foundation for the FTAA negotiation process was established in the San Jose Ministerial Declaration. This Declaration set out the agenda for the FTAA Trade Negotiations.

The Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) was created at the Vice-ministerial level. This Committee is overseen by a Chairman and Vice-Chairman.   The TNC is responsible for supervising the 9 negotiating groups (see below) and deciding the overall architecture of the agreement and institutional issues. The TNC is also responsible for ensuring full participation of all member countries in the FTAA process. Furthermore, the TNC will ensure that the concerns of smaller economies and countries with different levels of development are considered in each negotiating group.

The Negotiating Groups, as conceived in San Jose, are as follows:

Negotiating Group

Chair

Vice-Chair

1. Market Access

Colombia

Bolivia

2. Investment

Costa Rica

Dominican Republic

3. Services

Nicaragua

Bahamas

4. Government Procurement

United States

Honduras

5. Dispute Settlement

Chile

Uruguay-Paraguay

6. Agriculture

Argentina

El Salvador

7. Intellectual Property Rights

Venezuela

Ecuador

8. Subsidies, Antidumping and Countervailing Duties

Brazil

Chile

9. Competition Policy

Peru

Trinidad and Tobago

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of each group were selected with the need to maintain geographic balance in mind. The groups involved will report their results to the TNC no later than December, 2000.

All negotiating group meetings will be held in a single venue, which will rotates among three countries according to the following schedule:

Location of Working Group Meetings

Date

Miami, United States

May 1, 1998 to February 28, 2001

Panama City, Panama

March 1, 2001 to February 28, 2003 

Mexico D.F., Mexico

March 1, 2003 to December 31, 2004 

The extensive preparatory work that was done between 1995 and early 1998, including that of the TNC and the 12 working groups, allowed the Heads of State and Government to officially launch FTAA negotiations in April of 1998 at the Santiago Summit.

Second Summit of the Americas, Santiago, Chile (April, 1998)

The respective nations’ Ministers responsible for trade will carry forward the FTAA negotiations, pursuant to the Santiago Summit’s Plan of Action, and in accordance with the San Josť Ministerial Declaration. The Santiago Plan of Action also specifies that the Ministers must achieve concrete progress in the negotiations by the year 2000 and agree on specific business facilitation measures to be adopted before the end of the century. Furthermore, the negotiation process must be transparent and take into account the economic discrepancies of Member States.  This will permit the full participation of the smaller economies. The negotiations must include a broad level of public consultation and Civil Society participation. Ministers will consider these views as they are presented to the Committee of Government Representatives on Civil Society that was established at the Fourth Meeting of Trade Ministers in Costa Rica. Two other special committees have also been established: one on smaller economies and another comprised of both government and private sector representatives on electronic commerce.

The Santiago Plan of Action mandated that the Tripartite Committee, and in particular the IDB, allocate available resources to assist the FTAA negotiations, including the financing of the FTAA Administrative Secretariat. The Tripartite Committee was also instructed to continue its technical support of the FTAA entities, giving special attention to the needs of the smaller economies.

All of the nine FTAA negotiating groups held their first meeting in Miami, in September 1998. The negotiating groups established detailed work programs and meeting schedules. In addition, the three special committees held their first meetings in Miami in October, 1998 and similarly established their future work activity.

Next Stages of the FTAA Process

The Staff of the OAS Trade Unit will continue to provide technical advice to the FTAA Negotiation Groups. Within the context of the Tripartite Committee, the OAS provides expert support to six of the nine Negotiating Groups and to the three Special Consultative Committees. The Trade Unit acts upon requests of the groups and the respective chairpersons. During the September meetings, the representatives to the Negotiating Groups concentrated their efforts on developing work plans.

The Trade Unit also attended the meetings of the three Consultative Committees (the Consultative Group on Smaller Economies, the Committee of Government Representatives on Civil Society, and the Joint Government-Private Sector Committee of Experts on Electronic Commerce) which began their first series of meetings in October 1998. The Committee of Government Representatives on Civil Society issued an invitation to Civil Society Organizations. Information regarding the invitation is available from the United States Trade Representative, press release #98-94 "Free Trade Area of The Americas Off To Strong Start From Miami Talks".

During the third meeting of the Trade Negotiation Committee held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, July 28 to 30, 1999, member States achieved consensus on 9 out of 10 business facilitation measures. Those agreements respond to the commitment made by the leaders of the 34 member States to achieve substantial concrete progress by January 2000.  Business facilitation measures adopted at the meeting included:

Meeting in Toronto during the Fifth Trade Ministerial of the FTAA process November 3 and 4, 1999, Ministers of Trade of the 34 member States agreed on a Declaration and a comprehensive business facilitation package.   It focuses on practical measures to simplify customs clearances and to promote government transparency.  The business facilitation package also includes eight measures that will reduce transaction costs and create a more consistent and predictable business environment, facilitating business transactions in the hemisphere. In addition, new communications technologies will make procedures and regulations better known and accessible to the public. 

On November 3, twenty-two of the trade ministers and vice-ministers met with representatives from organizations representing a cross-section of Civil Society from across the Americas. At the Americas Civil Society Forum, ministers were presented with recommendations on issues such as foreign direct investment, labor standards and poverty alleviation.

At the same meeting, the Ministers agreed to a common approach on agricultural export subsidies for the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations in Seattle in December, 1999.

The Toronto Declaration also rotated the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the Negotiating Groups and the Government Consultative Committees, originally established for an 18-month term by the San Josť Declaration in March 1998.  The new Chairs and Vice Chairs serving for an 18 month period are listed below:

Negotiating Group

Chair

Vice-Chair

1. Market Access

Chile Barbados

2. Investment

Trinidad and Tobago Colombia

3. Services

U.S.A. Peru

4. Government Procurement

Canada Chile

5. Dispute Settlement

Costa Rica Peru

6. Agriculture

Brazil Ecuador

7. Intellectual Property Rights

Mexico Paraguay

8. Subsidies, Antidumping and Countervailing Duties

Venezuela Uruguay

9. Competition Policy

Colombia Canada

 

Other FTAA Entities 

Chair

Vice-Chair

Consultative Group on Smaller Economies

Guatemala Bahamas
Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society Bolivia
Joint Government-Private Sector Committee of Experts on Electronic Commerce Uruguay Canada

For complete information on the Toronto Ministerial, please see the Foreign Trade Information Service website dedicated to the Ministerial and Business Forum.   Also see the Fifth Americas Business Forum Website.

Since the beginning of 2000, various Negotiating Groups have met in Miami, Florida, regarding the implementation of the trade mandate from the Toronto Ministerial. On January 17-19, the Negotiating Group on Subsidies, Antidumping, and Compensatory Rights met to work on eliminating barriers to trade and investment. The discussion centered on the interaction between trade and competition policies, including anti-dumping measures, in addition to ways to deepen subsidy disciplines.

The Negotiating Group on Competition Policy met January 20-21, 2000. The deliberations focused on defining a schedule of meetings and a methodology in order to fulfill the trade mandate promoting the development of competition policy and a guarantee on the enforcement of regulations on free competition.

On February 15-16, 2000, the Negotiating Group on Investment gathered in Miami, Florida. They began the first phase of drafting a Work Program on an Investment text, which will be presented in final form to the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) twelve weeks prior to the Ministerial meeting scheduled for April 2001, in Argentina. The main objectives of the Investment Negotiation Group are to establish a fair and transparent legal framework to promote investment through the creation of a stable and predictable environment that protects the investor, his/her investment and related flows, without creating obstacles to investments from outside the hemisphere.

The Negotiating Group on Purchases of the Public Sector met between February 17-18, 2000, followed by the Group on Services, which met between February 29 and March 3, 2000. At this meeting, a work plan and a tentative schedule of meetings for this year were adopted, as well as deadlines and the next steps for the formulation of a draft text for the chapter on services.

The Negotiating Group on Intellectual Property met in Miami, Florida, on March 15-16, 2000.

Finally, the Trade Negotiation Committee met on April 13-14, 2000, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where the Committee analyzed progress made towards the implementation of business facilitation measures, considered new measures in that area, and heard reports from each of the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups, Consultative Groups and Committees. Following this meeting, the TNC met on September 7-8, 2000, in Bridgetown, Barbados.

OAS Trade Unit Technical Cooperation

The Trade Unit continues to lend its expertise to the Governments of smaller economies through seminars and courses held within the framework CIDI.  The Unit is working with the member States and with sub-regional organizations such as SIECA and CARICOM to identify areas which might be able to participate fully in the FTAA process if given additional support.

The centerpiece of the OAS Trade Unit’s technical assistance activities is the 'Training Course for Government Officials on the Multilateral and Regional Trade Issues for the Americas'. Two intensive courses on multilateral trade policy issues were held, one for Spanish speaking participants, and one for English speaking participants. A total of 54 participants from 28 countries in the hemisphere, as well as participants from the Andean Community Secretariat and the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) of CARICOM, benefited from the expertise of 50 speakers. The speakers and instructors were members of the hemisphere's governments, the World Trade Organization, World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of American States, Georgetown University and numerous think tanks, law firms and non-governmental organizations. The objective of the course was to deepen the understanding and methods of trade policy and its formulation with a focus on the smaller economies of the hemisphere.

The OAS Trade Unit organized a seminar entitled, 'How Governments Can Further Promote and Facilitate the Use of Arbitration and Other Alternative Dispute Settlement Methods for Settling Private Sector Differences within the FTAA Region. The seminar was held in Miami on May 4, immediately preceding the third meeting of the FTAA Negotiating Group on Dispute Settlement. Topics covered included the public international legal order governing private commercial arbitration, arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution methods and the differences in common law and civil law perspectives, drafting arbitration agreements and enforcing arbitral awards within the Hemisphere, experience in establishing an Arbitration center, and the work of the NAFTA Advisory Committee on Private Commercial Disputes.

In January of 1999, USAID’s Broad Based Economic Growth (BBEG) Team of the Latin American and Caribbean Office of Regional Sustainable Development authorized a grant for the OAS Trade Unit to carry out an assessment of the existing trade policy education and training infrastructure in the Western Hemisphere relevant to advancing public understanding of trade policy issues. The objectives of the assessment were to i) develop an inventory (database) of different programs providing trade policy education and/or training throughout the Hemisphere; ii) evaluate how well the supply serves the demand in the different areas of trade policy education; and iii) provide recommendations to the donor community and the OAS regarding technical assistance to serve unmet needs or to strengthen the hemispheric trade educational infrastructure. A presentation on the database was made to the third meeting of the FTAA Consultative Group on Smaller Economies in June. The database was created as part of the package of business facilitation measures to be presented to Trade Ministers at their meeting in Toronto in November.

On July 8 and 9, the OAS Trade Unit, in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica (COMEX) the Inter-American Development Bank’s Institute for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean (INTAL), organized a conference entitled 'Global Services Trade and the Americas'. Held in San Josť, Costa Rica, the conference brought together government negotiators from the Western Hemisphere responsible for service negotiations, private sector executives from service industries, and representatives of national service coalitions and academics. The purpose of the conference was to examine critical issues for the WTO millennium round negotiations; to analyze the approach that the various sub-regional agreements in the hemisphere have adopted towards services liberalization; and to explore the service discussions at the FTAA level. The conference also included three sectoral workshops devoted to the areas of financial services, electronic commerce and telecommunications.

XXX OAS General Assembly

At the XXX OAS General Assembly held in Windsor, Canada, on June 2000, Governments adopted a resolution that instructs the General Secretariat to continue providing analytical support and technical assistance, in particular to member states that request it, through the Tripartite Committee for the FTAA process.

The mandates and initiatives pertaining to the FTAA were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas.  For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities on the FTAA, please click here.

Updated June 7, 2001

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