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November 1, 2002

Committee of Government Representatives
on the Participation of Civil Society

Report of the Committee of Government Representatives
on the Participation of Civil Society to the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC)


  1. At their March 1998 meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, the Ministers Responsible for Trade in the Hemisphere, in addition to affirming their commitment to the principle of transparency in the FTAA negotiation process and acknowledging and welcoming the interests and concerns expressed by different sectors of society in relation to the FTAA, decided to establish the Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society, which would be responsible for receiving contributions, analyzing them, and presenting the range of viewpoints for consideration.

  2. In Buenos Aires, the Ministers reaffirmed once more their commitment to the principle of transparency in the FTAA process and again recognized the need for increasing the degree of participation of the different sectors of civil society in this hemispheric initiative. Upon receiving the civil society contributions submitted in response to the second Open Invitation, the Ministers thanked civil society for its participation and asked that it continue to make constructive contributions. Hence, they instructed the Committee to develop a list of options for the consideration of the TNC, aimed at fostering a process of increasing and sustained communication with civil society.

  3. The Trade Negotiations Committee, at its Ninth Meeting, from 26-28 September 2001 in Managua, agreed to review, and to establish priorities within the “List of Options (submitted by the Committee) to Foster a Process of Increasing and Sustaining Communications with Civil Society” and to include information on when, how, where, and with what financing to implement the options, as well as on who would do so. The TNC would authorize the Committee to commence implementation of the other options on which there was consensus within the Committee and not requiring further resources.

A. Activities Undertaken
  1. Between the Buenos Aires Ministerial Meeting and the Quito meeting, the Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society has met on eight occasions: 28-29 June 2001 (XI Meeting), 25-26 July 2001 (XII Meeting), 22-23 October 2001 (XIII Meeting), 29-30 November 2001 (XIV Meeting), 23-24 January 2002 (XV Meeting), 4 April 2002 (XVI Meeting), 24 June 2002 (XVII Meeting), and 29-30 July 2002 (XVIII Meeting).

  2. The Committee has taken the following steps:

    • It extended, as of 1 November 2001, a third Open and Permanent Invitation to civil society in the Hemisphere (Annex A), which each country undertook to disseminate by all available means. In this regard the Committee sent a letter to all of the vice ministers responsible for trade urging the governments to review the mechanisms for the dissemination of the open invitation and the distribution of information in the FTAA process.

    • It requested that the TNC examine the benefit of a broad de-restriction of documents and of information generated by the different FTAA entities so as to ensure the highest degree of transparency of the process. The Committee took note of the discussion the TNC had on this issue.

    • It requested that the TNC urge the different committees, including the TNC itself, to increase the volume of easily comprehensible information available to the public at the conclusion of each meeting. The Committee took note of the discussion the TNC had on this issue.

    • It invited the competent authorities of the FTAA countries hosting the upcoming ministerial and vice ministerial meetings to extend the necessary courtesies to civil society organizations wishing to hold parallel fora and to offer an opportunity for the conclusions of those fora to be heard.

    • It drafted Guidelines for holding five regional seminars, as well as for selecting the corresponding host countries. The Committee explored, with the support of the Tripartite Committee and other international entities, sources of financing for these seminars.

    • The government of Mexico in coordination with the governments of Canada and United States hosted a regional seminar for North America for public discussion on the FTAA on 18 July 2002, in Merida, Mexico. A summary report, prepared by the organizers, of this seminar is attached as Annex E, as authorized by the Committee.

    • Suggestions for improving the FTAA Official Website were made to the Tripartite Committee. The Committee received reports from the Tripartite Committee on improvements made and those in process.
B. Ongoing Activities
  1. The Committee’s ongoing activities include:

    • Following up on the process initiated with the Open and Permanent Invitation to civil society in the Hemisphere.

    • Ensuring that Ministers and those responsible for negotiating the FTAA are presented with the range of views from civil society in relation to the FTAA. The Committee continues to forward the contributions received by civil society to all FTAA entities.

    • Giving guidelines and support for national and regional seminars on the FTAA.

    • Encouraging government support of civil society forums to be held parallel to Ministerial and Vice Ministerial meetings.

    • Tracking the improvement to the FTAA’s public website.

    • Securing an overall increase in, and enhancement of, publicly available information on the FTAA.
C. Issues under study
  1. The Committee will continue to evaluate other issues, such as:

    • Compiling information on the mechanisms for, and national experiences with, the interaction between governments and civil society in the framework of the FTAA process, and disseminating that information on the FTAA public website.

    • Developing, with the assistance of national and regional entities, material to promote a broader understanding of the FTAA negotiating process and of the FTAA’s documentation.

    • Fostering a comprehensive process of education on the FTAA.

    • Developing additional mechanisms that promote more interactive communication with civil society on the FTAA process.

    • Encouraging all sectors of Civil Society to conduct seminars parallel to the meetings of the Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society.

    • Evaluating the possible benefits or difficulties that the establishment of a Consultative Committee on Civil Society could entail.

A. General Characteristics of the Contributions
  1. A total of 57 submissions were received, 56 of which complied with the formal requirements set forth in the Open Invitation (Annex A). Annex B provides information on the sender and the country of origin of the respective 56 contributions. Annex C provides a matrix of distribution of the contributions by civil society.. Annex D provides the respective contributions, either in full or an executive summary thereof pursuant to the formal requirements of the open invitation.

    The sender of the contribution that did not comply with the formal requirements for the Open Invitation was informed of the possibility of modifying the contribution so as to comply with these requirements. Nevertheless, no suggested changes have been received yet.

  2. Of the contributions received, 47% were from organizations and/or individuals from South American countries, with 52% of these coming from Argentina. Contributions from North American countries represented 36% of the total and 89% of these were from the United States. Central America and the Caribbean accounted for 17% of the contributions received.

  3. The breakdown of the contributions submitted, in terms of existing economic integration areas in the hemisphere, is as follows: 36% from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 11% from the Andean Community, 34% from MERCOSUR, 7.5% from the Central American Common Market (CACM), and 7.5% from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

  4. With regard to the content of the contributions, a broad range of viewpoints was submitted, related to issues addressed in the negotiating groups, committees, and the consultative group, as well as on the general scope of the FTAA.

  5. Several of the 56 contributions expressed opinions on more than one of the issues addressed by Negotiating Groups and other FTAA entities. Contributions were addressed to the following negotiating groups: Intellectual Property is the issue area that generated the most contributions 22, representing 42% of the total; Market Access drew 21 contributions (40%); Agriculture, with 21 contributions (40%); Dispute Settlement, with 18 contributions (34%); Services was the focus of 17 contributions (32%); Competition Policy, with 17 contributions (32%); Subsidies, Antidumping and Countervailing Duties received 17 contributions (32%); Investment received 16 contributions (30%); and Government Procurement was the subject of 15 contributions (28%). Regarding the Committees and the Consultative Group, Civil Society received the largest number of contributions, 23, equal to 43%; 16 contributions (30%) were registered regarding Smaller Economies; and Electronic Commerce received 14 contributions (26%). Seventeen contributions (32%) referred to the Technical Committee on Institutional Issues (TCI).
B. Range of views received

Negotiating Groups

Market Access
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/10, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 24, 26, 30, 36, 39, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, and 57)
  1. A variety of opinions were expressed in the civil society proposals on market access, ranging from support for extensive liberalization of commercial transactions to opposition to a free trade area. In the contributions favoring liberalization, there is an emphasis on the idea that the Agreement should be balanced for all Parties and fair, and should promote hemispheric development.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made;

    • benefits of trade liberalization should apply to the production of duty-free zones;

    • explore ways to reduce instability in exchange rates;

    • ban all non-tariff restrictions; and

    • harmonize customs procedures and labeling. The subject of duty drawbacks should not be included.
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/04, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 26, 30, 36, 37, 38, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 56, and 57)
  1. The submissions on this topic expressed a variety of opinions, in some cases divergent.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • support the FTAA mandate to make the region a “subsidy-free” zone in which all members promise not to subsidize their own exports and not to admit subsidized imports from outside the region;

    • governments should ensure that national food safety, quality, and sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) are equivalent to standards set by international bodies based on sound science, within the constraints of national law;

    • the FTAA should adopt a uniform hemispheric food inspection standard;

    • delay agricultural liberalization in order to maintain viability of developing country farming (family farming in particular) or provide differential treatment;

    • a “Development Fund” or “Food Safety Fund” should be created, in accordance with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, to protect small farmers and promote sustainable development; and

    • sugar should be excluded from the current negotiations.
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/08, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 26, 30, 34, 40, 43, 44, 45, 50, 52, and 56)
  1. Some civil society proposals on investment indicated that the Agreement should not grant foreign investors any preferences over domestic investors, but that it should ensure that the governments of the Parties maintain a certain degree of flexibility in order to establish a regulatory framework that promotes development at all levels of government, especially in less-developed countries. There is concern regarding the international mechanisms for dispute settlement and their application to disputes between foreign investors and governments of FTAA Parties. On performance requirements, there are contributions in favor of their application, others against, and others for limited application.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • the application of rules set out in the North American Free Trade Agreement protecting private investors (Chapter 11) should be prevented;

    • controls on capital outflows should be established;

    • the common legal framework established under certain subregional agreements should be respected;

    • ensure that investor protections do not weaken governments’ ability to address regulatory concerns, e.g., health, safety, and the environment;

    • adopt a clear, common policy that strengthens investor protections and thus encourages foreign direct investment in order to increase employment, Gross Domestic Product, public revenues, and knowledge transfer; and

    • small and vulnerable economies should be allowed to enforce performance requirements; and

    • there were also proposals for strengthening human, environmental and labor rights as well as proposals against including labor and environmental issues in the FTAA.
Subsidies, Antidumping and Countervailing Duties
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/03, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 26, 30, 43, 44, 45, 46, 50, 52, 54, 56, and 57)
  1. The submissions on this topic expressed a variety of opinions, in some cases divergent.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • many contributions agreed that FTAA countries should eliminate all trade-distorting subsidies;

    • countries that do not eliminate subsidies should not benefit from tariff elimination;

    • regulations on antidumping and countervailing duties should be consistent with clear, transparent, agreed standards, and WTO compatible;

    • any dispute regarding the interpretation or application of the Agreement should be resolved pursuant to the procedures set out in the FTAA Chapter on Dispute Settlement, and all parties to disputes should be able to present their views; and

    • national authorities of member countries should provide for judicial review in cases in which administrative officials are alleged to have departed from the standards established in the laws and regulations.
Competition Policy
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ 05, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 25, 26, 30, 41, 43, 44, 45, 46, 50, and 56)
  1. Some contributions point to the need to establish competition policies that promote cooperation among national authorities. They also requested that discriminatory practices by state monopolies and enterprises be avoided in the FTAA. Several contributions emphasized that some countries will need technical assistance and different timetables for the implementation of the FTAA.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • a process should be established for studying cases in which competition rules and pro-trade policies can be applied and their results and market impact can be compared;

    • a process should be established for studying the relationship between trade and competition policy and for incorporating competition principles or criteria in antidumping laws;

    • barriers to entry and trade, in both pro-trade and competition rules, should also be studied;

    • parties should be required to adopt national competition laws and create competition monitoring agencies within a specific timeframe, and technical assistance should be provided to countries without domestic legislation on competition;

    • anticompetitive practices in both the public and the private sector, should be prevented and prohibited;

    • FTAA competition policy should be based on the principles of nondiscrimination and national treatment;

    • countries that do not have competition laws shall have a period of time to adopt them; and

    • eliminate from the application of competition laws or declare exceptions or special provisions for specific sectors. Once the Agreement comes into force, no new exceptions should be established.
Intellectual Property Rights
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/09, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 30, 32, 35, 37, 43, 44, 45, 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, and 56)
  1. The submissions on this topic expressed a variety of opinions, in some cases divergent.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • intellectual property standards in the hemisphere should promote effective protection and thereby reduce distortions of, and obstacles to, international trade as well as recognize the fundamental objectives of public policy, including research, development, and technology dissemination;

    • the Patent Cooperation Treaty should not be a mandatory requirement within the FTAA;

    • while some submissions opposed strengthening intellectual property rights protections in the FTAA beyond the TRIPs Agreement, others supported even stronger protections than are currently provided in TRIPs;

    • intellectual property rights need to be better protected so as to facilitate technology transfers and development;
    • small farmers should be permitted to use and exchange protected seeds;

    • the protection of new varieties of plants, traditional knowledge, the protection of biological diversity, and access to genetic resources should be incorporated into the FTAA;

    • all forms of life should be excluded from the patent process;

    • powers for granting compulsory licenses for pharmaceutical products should not be limited; and

    • traditional/indigenous knowledge should be defined more clearly at institutions such as the WIPO, before such topics are incorporated into FTAA negotiations.
Dispute Settlement
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/06, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 26, 29, 30, 40, 43, 44, 45)
  1. Some submissions state that the WTO and some regional agreements have considerable expertise that can be utilized to guide the FTAA. The submissions also point out that it is very important to clarify the areas for which the different Groups that now exist—whether regional, subregional, or multilateral—are responsible, so as to ensure that the effectiveness and credibility of the dispute settlement system are not compromised.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • parties should attempt all alternative dispute resolution mechanisms before convening a panel;

    • various existing international agreements on dispute settlement need to be recognized: Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention), Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes Between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention), and the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (1975 Panama Convention);

    • concrete steps need to be taken to ensure that countries recognize the binding nature of arbitral awards;

    • national legislation needs to be harmonized; and

    • private individuals interested in dispute settlement mechanisms should be given full access to them.

Government Procurement
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/07, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 26, 30, 42, 43, 44, 45, 50, 54, and 56)
  1. Some civil society submissions regarding government procurement point to the need to provide for a framework of rules ensuring transparency and non-discrimination in government procurement in the hemisphere. Other proposals, however, stress the need for the governments of the Parties to reserve the right to require that some products and their respective inputs purchased by certain entities be totally domestic. Some proposals stressed the need to define the concepts of micro and small enterprise so as to encourage the expansion of such enterprises.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • national preferences should be eliminated in all sectors, except those that are sensitive and related to national security;

    • preferences granted in subregional agreements should be respected;

    • laws, policies, and regulations of each country should be timely published and disseminated, including electronically;

    • structure government procurement preferences to support smaller economy development;

    • government officials should receive ongoing training; and

    • a register of suppliers in the FTAA member states should be created.
(Background documents: FTAA/soc/civ/11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 26, 30, 31, 43, 44, 45, 50, 52, and 56)
  1. The submissions on this topic expressed a variety of opinions, in some cases divergent.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • use the top-down negative list approach to services liberalization;

    • allow flexibility in public services like education, water, and health, or exclude these topics from negotiations, and ensure that these services are accessible to the poor;

    • transparency in regulations and negotiations needs to be enhanced;

    • while some submissions favored broad liberalization of trade in services, beyond the level attained in the GATS, others opposed both further liberalization and MFN treatment in the services area;

    • the FTAA should grant most-favored-nation treatment to all Parties and national treatment to all services and service providers;

    • smaller economies should be given the individual discretion to open fewer sectors and fewer types of transactions, and a non-reciprocal formula should be applied to benefit smaller economies;

    • the relationship between FTAA obligations and the GATS and other regional agreements needs to be clarified;

    • double taxation should be avoided;

    • a procedure should be created for business people in the services sectors created by the treaty to obtain special visas;

    • an accreditation system for institutions of higher education should be created; and

    • systems of professional certification and of accreditation of institutions providing healthcare services should be created.
Committees and Consultative Group

Civil Society
(Background documents: FTAA/soc/civ/13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 30, 36, 37, 43, 45, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, and 57)
  1. The submissions largely recognize the initiative taken by the leaders of the FTAA process to create a forum for the participation of civil society in the Americas, which has made it possible for members of civil society to express opinions, submit contributions and suggestions, and share viewpoints on the development of the negotiations. They also identify shortcomings in terms of encouraging ongoing dialogue with civil society.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • restructure the current Committee as a joint committee of civil society and government representatives on the FTAA;

    • implement training programs and other types of technical assistance to increase civil society’s knowledge and awareness of the ongoing FTAA process;

    • studies and research should be carried out on the topics of mechanisms for citizen participation, through civil society, in the monitoring of public and state bodies and authorities with regard to their functioning and fulfillment of their objectives and functions;

    • promotion of citizen participation through the teaching of democratic values to young people in secondary schools and universities as well as to grassroots political leaders through training programs;

    • a review, by the states participating in the FTAA negotiations, of their legislation and policies aimed at empowering citizens and encouraging their participation;

    • an increased participation of women in the FTAA process, and an allocation of technical and financial assistance for capacity building in women’s organizations;

    • increased transparency of the process, including broader de-restriction of FTAA documents and the introduction of better instruments and forums for the dissemination of information;

    • the recognition of the indigenous populations in the countries of the hemisphere as an important part of civil society;

    • more direct contact between negotiators and civil society, and public meetings;

    • the need to draw a distinction between submissions from NGOs and those from the business sector;

    • the incorporation of labor standards into the FTAA, with adjustment assistance to address job loss;

    • the proposed initiation of parallel negotiations on the environment, linked to the conclusion of the FTAA process;

    • report back to civil society on whether proposals made in the submissions process were adopted or rejected; and

    • the publication of the complete texts of the national negotiating positions and the updated draft of the text of the Agreement.
Smaller Economies
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/12, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30, 36, 43, 45, 50, 54, and 56)
  1. Many of the submissions received in reference to smaller economies address the need and importance of recognizing the differences in the size of, and the asymmetries between, the economies of the hemisphere. Thus, most of the submissions stress the need for technical assistance programs and mechanisms to support them. Although they acknowledge the work of the Consultative Group on Smaller Economies, they stress that it should have a more proactive role in the FTAA process.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • build special and differential treatment provisions for small and vulnerable economies into the Agreement as a right and accord to a group of countries or groups of countries that meet agreed criteria;

    • consideration should be given to several socioeconomic indicators, such as: income, income distribution, degree of poverty, health (life expectancy, infant mortality), education, degree of openness, share of international trade (especially intra-hemispheric trade), foreign debt in comparison with exports, per capita exports, infrastructure (roads, ports, airports, telecommunications), and export diversification (products and destination);

    • the FTAA should allow small and vulnerable economies to implement a flexible approach that includes exemptions and phased systems;

    • the smaller economies should be exempt from the MFN and national treatment clauses that endanger government capacity to provide essential public services and safeguard the public interest;

    • a binding commitment should be established for the provision of technical assistance and cooperation to enable enterprises from smaller economies to participate in tendering procedures; and

    • a hemispheric fund should be established through regional institutions like the IDB, OAS and ECLAC, to provide technical and financial assistance to regional negotiators and thereby ensure their effective participation in the negotiations.
Electronic Commerce
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/02, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 26, 30, 33, 43, 44, 45, 50, and 56)
  1. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • that a request be made for the necessary steps to be taken to recognize electronic registrations and signatures;

    • tax treatment should be given on a level at least equal to that given to on-line and conventional transactions;

    • customs harmonization and simplification, technological compatibility, and legal harmonization;

    • the privacy of data flows in the hemisphere should be safeguarded;

    • universal standards need to be established;

    • tariffs on technological goods should be lowered and competition should be promoted among telecommunications providers;

    • governments should take the necessary steps to strengthen infrastructure related to information technologies, and should strive to become model users of electronic commerce;

    • consumer-protection laws should be enforced; and

    • confidence in the market needs to be strengthened and SMEs’ share of electronic commerce should be increased.
Institutional Issues
(Background documents: FTAA.soc/civ/15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 34, 43, 45, 50, 52, 54, and 56)
  1. The submissions on this topic expressed a variety of opinions, in some cases divergent.

  2. By way of illustration, the following specific proposals were made:

    • a Regional Integration Fund (RIF) should be established to provide financing during the transition toward the liberalization of regional economies;

    • the FTAA should establish a mechanism to closely monitor and evaluate the economic and social benefits of FDI stemming directly from the hemispheric agreement, with a view to instituting corrective measures where needed;

    • a chapter on measures for implementation of FTAA agreements should be adopted;

    • developing countries of the region should receive special and differential treatment; and

    • there were also proposals to include a broad social clause that considers the rights consecrated in the ILO conventions; establish a labor standards protection panel; promote women’s participation in the FTAA; establish environmental standards for transnational corporations and governments alike; evaluate the FTAA’s effect on the environment, society, and gender issues, provide coordinated assistance to developing countries to help them undertake such evaluations; and recognize the Principle of Common but Differential Responsibilities enshrined in the Stockholm (1972) and Rio de Janeiro (1992) Conferences.

Annex A: Third Open and Permanent Invitation
Annex B: List of Contributions
Annex C: Matrix of Distribution of Contributions by Civil Society
Annex D: Contributions or Executive Summaries
Annex E: Summary Report of the North American Regional Seminar
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