Home » Uncategorized » Update on Citizens’ Campaigns on the FTAA

Write DateWednesday, July 3, 2002
AuthorKaren Hansen-Kuhn
SummaryRepresentatives of the Hemispheric Social Alliance (HSA) and other social movements met recently in Quito, Ecuador for the purpose of exchanging information on their respective popular-education campaigns on the potential impacts of and alternatives to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). They also discussed the coordination of those campaigns at the hemispheric level and developed plans around a major civil-society forum to be held parallel to the official meeting of trade ministers on the FTAA in late October.
TextMeeting of Citizen’s Groups on the Hemispheric Campaign on the FTAA
26-27 May 2002
Quito, Ecuador
Meeting Report

Over fifty people representing a broad variety of national and sectoral networks attended the meeting, which was led by representatives of the Hemispheric Social Alliance (HSA) Secretariat and CONAIE (the Ecuadorian indigenous peoples’ coalition, on behalf of the Ecuadorian Campaign on the FTAA). The meeting began with a presentation by local unions on a current crisis involving banana workers. Participants in the meeting signed a statement of solidarity with the banana workers and discussed plans for a joint press conference on that situation. This was followed by country reports on plans for the hemispheric popular-education campaign on the FTAA, which will run from approximately September 2002 to March 2003.

Reports on country campaigns

Ecuador: Ecuadorian groups, led by CONAIE, CONFENUASSC (campesino organizations) and ALAI (regional media organizations) held the first national convention on the FTAA on 25-26 May. Over 200 people attended that meeting. They are working now to organize activities to be held parallel to the trade ministers’ meeting this October. The consultation on the FTAA in Ecuador will begin after those activities.

Dominican Republic: Seven workshops on the FTAA have been held already. A major day of action coordinated with Haitian groups will be held in June.

Brazil: They see this campaign as the continuation of the previous campaigns on debt and adjustment. Over 100 organizations are involved in the referendum effort, training some 20,000 trainers around the country. The goal is to have 6 million people vote in the referendum, which will be held on 1-7 September. Activities to follow up on the referendum are being planned now. 150,000 pamphlets on the FTAA have been distributed, as well as numerous posters and books. There is some thought to organizing a boycott of certain U.S. products in response to the protectionist commitments made during the debate on trade-promotion authority.

Haiti: Camille Chalmers spoke on behalf of PAPDA, which is also a member of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre and the Caribbean Reference Group. Haitian and other Caribbean organizations have held over 80 seminars on the FTAA. They plan to hold the plebiscite in 3 departments (provinces), where some 50% of the Haitian population lives.

Canada: At the CLC convention in June, unions will consider resolutions demanding that the government to renegotiate NAFTA and withdraw from the FTAA negotiations. The campaign on the FTAA is still being defined.

Argentina: Three meetings involving over 80 organizations (including the CTA and Attac) were held in April to define the consultation. They are developing a work plan, but this has been difficult given the current economic crisis. They will focus on the “globalization of conflicts,” with a central focus on the FTAA. They held a popular consultation against poverty in December that was endorsed by three million people, so they will likely hold a plebiscite on the FTAA as well. Even though the governments will probably not hold the Summit of the Americas in Argentina in April, as had been planned, Argentine groups would like to organize a Peoples’ Summit, where the results of the hemispheric consultation could be announced.

Peru: They are still defining the consultation, but have had meetings involving 80 organizations. They are organizing a national parliamentary caucus on the FTAA. While they think they probably canÂ’t carry out a referendum, they are gearing up for a major popular-education campaign.

Mexico: The National Committee for the Campaign against the FTAA has been organized (led by RMALC). A major popular-education campaign is underway. The objective is to have three million people vote in the referendum, which will be held at a series of events from September to March.

El Salvador: the Red Sinti-Techan, a new network of nine organizations has been formed and is holding popular-education events on FTAA, CAFTA and Plan Puebla Panama. MANFA, the Nicaraguan network on the FTAA, will hold a major event in July.

Bolivia: the Bolivian Movement of Struggle against the FTAA held an event attended by 104 organizations last week. They have a campaign underway demanding that the government hold an official referendum in September. If that effort fails, they will consider carrying out a popular referendum. They are demanding information from the government on its positions on the FTAA. Four additional campaigns are underway: an examination of how the FTAA contradicts the Bolivian constitution; a campaign against the sale of natural gas to U.S. based transnationals; a campaign against water exports to Chile; and a campaign against Bechtel related to its use of an investor-state mechanism similar to that proposed in the FTAA to challenge the cancellation of the privatization of water utilities in Cochabamba. Bolivian groups have translated the Bill Moyers documentary on the NAFTA investor-state mechanism into Spanish and are using it at popular-education events.

United States: over 50 organizations participated in a meeting held in April to plan the U.S. consultation. Four committees were established: training the trainers; public outreach; corporate campaigns; and coordination. U.S. groups will hold a variety of town-hall meetings, speaking tours, and other events across the country to raise awareness on the FTAA. Petitions, ballots, surveys and local resolutions will be used to collect peopleÂ’s opinions on the FTAA. There was also discussion of the Poor PeoplesÂ’ Economic Human Rights Campaign, which brings together poor people from several countries on issues related to economic justice and the FTAA. That campaign will also conduct web-based voting on the FTAA.

Chile: The Chilean Alliance for Just and Responsible Trade (ACJR) is focusing on the links between the FTAA and bilateral free-trade agreements, including the proposed agreements with the United States and the European Union. While it is unlikely that they will conduct a referendum, they are planning a major popular-education campaign throughout the country.

Cuba: The Cuban Chapter of the HSA is still defining the consultation. Training programs for union and campesino leaders are underway. Plans are being made for the Second Hemispheric Meeting on the FTAA in November. That event will focus on developing strategies among national networks on the FTAA.

Guatemala: The FTAA campaign is still being developed. They suggested caution on the length of the referendum questionnaire. The Guatemalan referendum on the Peace Accords had 52 questions, in a country with low literacy rates, so people mostly ignored the whole thing.

Coordination of national FTAA campaigns

1. Official FTAA agenda:
Timeline: 1 January 2006: FTAA enters into force
2005: ratifications
2004: negotiations finalized
2003: negotiations on product and sectoral coverage and time periods concluded

Political considerations:
the recent TPA debate demonstrates increased protectionism in the United States, leading many governments to object to protections for steel, agricultural subsidies, etc;
upcoming WTO negotiations will deal with many of the same issues raised in the FTAA. The next WTO trade ministersÂ’ meeting will happen in Mexico in 2003;

numerous bilateral agreements are being negotiated, both with the U.S. government and between Latin American governments, most of which contain the same proposals as the FTAA;
the provisions in the FTAA and these other trade negotiations will, in many cases, conflict with national constitutions;
transnational corporations are demanding contracts for privatization or for the sale of natural resources that also serve to advance the free-trade agenda.
Taken together, each of these elements (as well as others such as Plan Puebla Panama) is a piece in the puzzle of corporate-led globalization. Our analysis and strategies must connect these seemingly disparate processes.
2. Methodology of the popular-education campaigns and public consultations on the FTAA: The purpose of the campaign is to educate millions of people in the hemisphere on the issues involved in the FTAA over a relatively short period and to consult a broad range of people on their opinions on the proposed accord. The consultation will be carried out in different ways in different countries. Some of the options discussed included:
plebiscites: with ballots deposited into ballot boxes over a relatively short period of time, perhaps a week. This would require mechanisms to accredit voters, as well as the possible establishment of international observers to increase credibility.
broader consultations: votes held over a longer time period. In Mexico, for example, the consultation will take place between 12 October and 21 March.
resolutions in town-hall meetings or other public assemblies

While the questions included in the consultations will vary from country to country, there should be one common question:
“Do you agree that your government should ratify the Free Trade Area of the Americas?”

Efforts should be made to limit the total number of questions to a maximum of five so as to avoid the problems experienced in Guatemala of people being confused by a broad array of questions. The HSAÂ’s Operating Committee was designated as the central organization to manage this process and to collect information on the votes carried out in different countries.

Plans for October civil-society meetings on the FTAA in Quito

The official trade ministersÂ’ meeting will occur on 31 October and 1 November. In addition, over 2,000 people are expected to attend the Americas Business Forum, starting on 28 October. Presidential elections will be held in Ecuador on 20 October, which could mean that journalists will arrive for the elections and stay through the trade meetings.

The tentative schedule for the civil-society events is:
27 October – cultural activity/opening;
28-29 October – meetings of networks (ORIT, Jubilee South, CLOC, etc.)
30-31 October – public debates and seminars on the FTAA;
1 November – rally and/or march on the FTAA

There was also a call for similar events focused on the FTAA to be held in other countries in the hemisphere. The Grito de los Excluidos campaign will culminate on 12 October, so many groups in Latin America will also raise issues related to the FTAA on that day.

Issue Areastrade and trade-related issues
economic security, livelihood issues and labor
international finance
environment and ecosystems
agriculture and food security
community organizing and movement building
education and culture
peace and human security