Free Trade Area of the Americas - FTAA


Trade Negotiations

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November 4, 1999



  1. At their meeting in San José, Costa Rica, in March 1998, Trade Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of transparency in the negotiation process, and to facilitating the constructive participation of the different sectors of society. Ministers welcomed the interests and concerns that different sectors of civil society have expressed in relation to the FTAA and, in response, established the Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society to receive inputs, analyze them and present the range of views for consideration by Ministers.

  2. The Committee met for the first time on October 19-20, 1998, in Miami, where the Committee agreed to a workplan (attached as Annex A) which included extending an "Open Invitation to Civil Society", inviting members of the public to submit their views on the FTAA negotiations. The invitation (attached as Annex B) was issued on November 1, 1998, with a deadline of 31 March 1999 for submissions to the Tripartite Committee, on behalf of the Committee. The Committee met again on June 17, 1999 to consider the submissions received, and most recently convened on October 12-13 to prepare this report to Ministers.

  3. Organizations or individuals from only 16 countries of the FTAA sent contributions. The Committee noted that, although the views contained in the submissions reflected a broad spectrum of opinions, concern was expressed that the submissions were not representative of civil society throughout the hemisphere. The Committee agreed that despite these limitations, the submissions formed a good starting point for its work.
  4.  The geographic distribution of the submissions was as follows: 50% of submissions were submitted by organizations or individuals from the United States and Canada; 16% of submissions were received from organizations which identified themselves as "international", "Inter-American" or "Latin American"; 13% of submissions came from organizations or individuals from South America (7% were from Mercosur); 10% of submissions came from organizations or individuals from the Caribbean; 7% of submissions came from organizations or individuals from Central America; and 4% of submissions were received from organizations or individuals which identified themselves as subregional (Andean Community and Caricom).
  5. The distribution of submissions based on sector (as outlined in the San José Declaration) is as follows: Business Associations and Other Sectors of Production (including professional associations), 32%; Labor Organizations, 15%; Environmental Organizations, 15%; Academics (including students) 13%; and other organizations and individuals, 25%.
  6. The submissions raised a wide range of issues in the FTAA context. Some of the submissions focused on the negotiating groups: agriculture, antidumping/countervailing duties, competition policy, dispute settlement, government procurement, intellectual property, investment, market access, services. Other submissions focused on FTAA committees: electronic commerce, smaller economies, and civil society. Some submissions addressed other issues such as business facilitation, transparency, labor standards and environmental protection. A number of submissions from the business sector contained offers of assistance in specific areas of expertise.
  7. As part of the Committee’s deliberations, some delegations described their domestic consultative processes, including broader sub-regional consultative mechanisms. The discussions led to a better understanding of the existing mechanisms in use throughout the hemisphere.
  8. Many members of the Committee anticipated that future efforts to gather civil society views through written submissions consistent with the San Jose Declaration would yield greater participation from civil society groups and individuals throughout the hemisphere.
  9. To promote the constructive participation of the different sectors of society in the FTAA process, and to build public understanding and support for hemispheric trade liberalization, the Committee will issue an “Open Invitation to Civil Society.” To facilitate this process, the Committee proposes to make available the attached template (Attached as Annex C).
  10. Following is the Committee's analysis based on a review of the range of views expressed in the submissions.


Market Access

  1. The submissions in this area reflected a wide range of views on what the FTAA strategy should be with regard to market access. Among the views were calls for:

    • early harvest strategy or progressive liberalization, while others argued against any kind of staging or phasing.
    • early harvest strategy or progressive liberalization, while others argued against any kind of staging or phasing.
    • elimination of non-tariff barriers, while others were more concerned about the establishment of clear rules regarding non-tariff barriers.

    • market access rules that would protect against import surges.

  2. Other submissions were concerned about the fairness or transparency of market access rules, with some submissions calling for special treatment for smaller economies and others urging that all FTAA countries establish identical market access regimes.

  1. The submissions that addressed agriculture offered a variety of suggestions regarding priorities for this area of the FTAA negotiations. Among the most frequently mentioned themes were the need to eliminate trade-distorting subsidies and to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to agricultural trade in the hemisphere. Other views called for:

    • establishment of procedures to increase transparency in world agricultural prices.
    • simplification of processes of control, inspection, approval and certification.
    • science-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
    • harmonization of financial assistance (as a percentage of GDP) for agriculture.
    • elimination of discriminatory or arbitrary implementation of SPS measures.
  1. There was a dichotomy of views with regard to FTAA rules on investment. Several submissions also called for the establishment of dispute settlement process. Some raised concerns regarding the possible effects on government regulatory decisions. A few other submissions called for investment rules with minimal restrictions and unrestricted capital flows. Some of the contrasting views on investment and capital flows included:

    • a call for national governments to retain the right to screen investments in the national interest versus a call for the elimination of "political considerations" in investment rules,
    • a call for narrow definition of investment versus a call for broad definition of investment, and
    • a call for national governments to retain the right to regulate the flow of capital, especially short-term and speculative capital, versus a call for ability to freely transfer profits and capital without government restriction.
  1. The submissions that addressed the services issue called for liberalization of the services sector and recommended various parameters to guide liberalization in this sector, including:
    • application of the principle of reciprocity and nondiscrimination to foreign services.
    • establishment of agreed criteria for the recognition and certification of professional service providers.
    • consideration of issues such as movement of labor, money and technology as a means of developing the hemisphere's services sector.
    • elimination of all non-tariff barriers such as visa requirements.
    • exclusion of aviation traffic rights and related services from FTAA negotiations.

  2. Some submissions also proposed the establishment of subsector negotiating groups in this area.
Government Procurement
  1. Two of the submissions that addressed government procurement urged the FTAA to fulfill its commitment to complete an agreement on transparency in government procurement by 2000. Some submissions advocated the elimination of national restrictions on government purchases within the FTAA, while other submissions called for procurement policies that support national development goals, including policies preserving preferences for purchases from domestic suppliers.
Intellectual Property
  1. Two key themes arose in the submissions that addressed intellectual property rights:

    • the importance of the FTAA as a vehicle for increasing hemispheric compliance and agreement on TRIPs and related goals, and
    • the need for the FTAA to strike a balance between the need for protection of intellectual property rights and the need for development-enhancing technology transfers.
  2. Some submissions also urged that IP discussions consider the protection of bio-diversity and traditional collective rights.
Antidumping/Countervailing Duties

  1. As with respect to agriculture, the elimination of trade-distorting subsidies was a key theme addressed in relation to antidumping and countervailing duties. Other significant themes in this area were the need for transparency in rule-making, application of rules, and investigation of complaints. One submission suggested the establishment of a mechanism for notification of subsidy policies similar to the WTO notification mechanism.
Competition Policy
  1. The need for cooperation among national competition authorities was a key theme in the submissions that addressed competition policy. Other submissions called for:
    • non-discrimination and national treatment as basic principles of the FTAA competition policy.
    • coordination of technical assistance to promote the adoption of competition laws and jurisprudence.
    • consideration of the peculiar characteristics of sectors with large infrastructures, such as electricity and telecommunications.
Dispute Settlement
  1. Several submissions stressed the importance of an effective dispute settlement system, with some underscoring the need for the process to be rapid. Some submissions noted the need for panels to have access to technical expertise in particular areas and the need for greater transparency.

Smaller Economies
  1. The submissions that addressed smaller economies called for recognition of the special needs and development requirements of smaller economies. Submissions included calls for:

    • progressive liberalization with special privileges for smaller economies,
    • creation of opportunities for smaller economies,
    • financial assistance for less developed countries, and
    • application of rules in accord with country conditions.
  1. Only one submission made reference to the FTAA E-Commerce discussions. Among the ideas expressed in that submission were calls for: minimal governmental intervention in this area, no fees or taxes for Internet transactions, and increased access to the Internet through public facilities such as libraries and governmental agencies.
Civil Society and FTAA process
  1. Submissions on the general FTAA process/structure addressed a variety of issues including the relation between the FTAA and the WTO as well as between the FTAA and subregional or bilateral agreements, the timing and speed of the negotiations, and the FTAA negotiating structure. Some submissions called for greater transparency in the FTAA process, including more access to information for those interested in the negotiations. Some other submissions supported civil society participation as an important means of building public support for the FTAA and offered a number of specific proposals.

Business Facilitation
  1. All of the submissions that addressed business facilitation issues called for some form of modernization, simplification, and/or harmonization of the hemisphere's customs systems. Specific recommendations included:

    • increased transparency in customs rule-making and procedures, and

    • databases containing applied and preferential rates for all FTAA countries.

  2. Some submissions also called for adoption of the WTO Valuation Agreement. Another submission called for attention to privacy principles to protect proprietary business information and transborder data flows.

Labor Standards
  1. Some submissions raised the issue of labor standards and advocated their formal inclusion of this issue in the FTAA. They included recommendations of both a substantive and procedural nature to accomplish this goal. Some other submissions asserted that labor standards not become technical barriers to trade, and specifically objected to the use of trade sanctions to enforce labor standards. Some submissions called for labor standards to be addressed completely outside of the FTAA.
  1. Some of the submissions advocated the inclusion of environmental issues in the FTAA. They raised in particular the environmental impact of the FTAA, not lowering environmental standards to attract investment or to gain competitive advantage, and made procedural recommendations. Some other submissions emphasized concerns that inclusions of environmental issues would delay progress on other trade issues, particularly if trade sanctions were used to enforced environmental standards. Also, some submissions suggested that environmental issues should be handled completely independent of trade discussions. Some of the submissions also noted that the increased prosperity generated by trade liberalization creates the resources necessary to protect the environment.
Sustainable Development
  1. Some submissions advocated that sustainability be a principle of the FTAA.
  1. The submissions that addressed corruption called for the FTAA to promote full ratification of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption by 2000 and to include implementation of the Convention on the FTAA agenda.
Social Issues
  1. Some of the submissions expressed their concerns on the implications of the FTAA on gender equality, social justice, human rights, poverty, immigration and education.



In view of the open invitation to civil society in FTAA participating countries to make written submissions referring to trade matters related to the FTAA process, as set out in the attached Annex, the Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society (the Committee) has agreed on the Work Programme outlined in this document, which is submitted for the consideration of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) at its meeting in Suriname in December.
  1. An open invitation for written submissions from civil society will be issued effective November 1, 1998, on the official website, and further disseminated widely by individual FTAA governments, as appropriate.

  2. The deadline for the receipt of submissions during the first phase of the FTAA negotiations culminating in the Ministerial meeting in October 1999, is March 31, 1999.

  3. All written submissions are to be sent to the Chairman of the Committee, in care of the Tripartite Committee/United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Washington Office. All written submissions will be acknowledged by the Chairman in the language of the submission (Annex I).

  4. The submissions will be presented as outlined in the open invitation to civil society, which is attached as Annex 2 to this document.

  5. The Tripartite Committee will, on behalf of the Chairman, develop a list of the submissions received, which should include the following information:

    1. date of receipt of the submission

    2. name of originator of the submission

    3. length of the submission

    4. original language of the submission

  6. The Tripartite Committee will forward a monthly update of this list of submissions received to all Committee members.

  7. The FTAA Administrative Secretariat will be responsible for translating the Executive Summary of each submission into the working languages.

  8. The FTAA Administrative Secretariat will copy and distribute the Executive Summaries in both working languages to all Committee members one month prior to the meetings of the Committee. Committee members may seek copies of full submissions, in their original language, at any time from the Administrative Secretariat.

  9. The Committee will hold its next meetings in April and August 1999, or as required.

  10. The Committee will analyze the Executive Summaries and, based on submissions determined to conform with paragraph 3 of the open invitation to civil society, the Committee will prepare a report to Ministers. The Committee will submit a draft of the report to the TNC by September 15, 1999.


  1. Recognizing the interests and concerns expressed relating to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by different sectors of society, and consistent with the principle of transparency in the FTAA negotiating process, Ministers Responsible for Trade of the Hemisphere, as agreed in the Ministerial Declaration of San Jose, noted the contribution of Abusiness and other sectors of production, labour, environmental, and academic groups@, and encouraged Athese and other sectors of civil societies to present their views on trade matters in a constructive manner@. For this purpose, they established a Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society with the objective of receiving, analyzing and presenting the range of views of civil society for their consideration.

  2. The Committee extends an invitation to civil society to submit, as of November 1, 1998, their views in writing, by mail, fax, electronic mail or courier service.

  3. Each submission will:
    identify the person and/or organization, with their address, that is presenting the point of view;
    refer to trade matters related to the FTAA process, using the San José Ministerial Declaration as the frame of reference (attached);
    be in concise written form, in one of the official FTAA languages (Spanish, English, French, Portuguese);
    contain an executive summary of not more than two pages, including reference to the trade matters it refers to and the way the views contribute to the FTAA process, as stipulated in the San José Ministerial Declaration.
    be sent directly to the Chairman of the Committee of Government Representatives on Civil Society Participation, at the following address:

    c/o Tripartite Committee (Ref. Civil Society)
    United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
    1825 K St. NW, Suite 1120
    Washington, DC 20006
    Fax: (202) 296-0826

  4. The deadline for the receipt of submissions is March 31, 1999, in preparation for the Ministerial meeting in October 1999 in Canada.

Proposed Template – Cover Sheet of Submissions










(if applicable)




Number of Pages




Did you include an Executive






        Issues Addressed  (Check all that apply)



Subsidies, Antidumping and Countervailing Duties


Competition Policy


Civil Society


Dispute Settlement


Electronic Commerce


Government Procurement


Smaller Economies


Intellectual Property Rights


The FTAA Process





Market Access







EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – 2 pages maximum – (see Open Invitation):












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