|Free Trade Area of the Americas - FTAA|
COMMITTEE OF GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES ON THE PARTICIPATION OF
CONTRIBUTION IN RESPONSE TO THE OPEN INVITATION
Chairman of the Committee of Government
Representatives on the
Fax: (202) 296-0826
I have the pleasure of submitting, in
Spanish, the following background information, comments, notes and
suggestions to the FTAA process within the framework of the “Open
Invitation to Civil Society”. The background information is included, as
requested in the invitation sent by Mrs. Adriana Hoffman Jacoby, Executive
Director of the National Commission on the Environment of the Republic of
Chile. (See Annex 1)
Miguel Ignacio Fredes González
28 September 2000.
This submission deals with the trade matters as set out in the FTAA process. Essentially, the following themes are examined: international trade and the environment; policy on agricultural subsidies and the forest products industry in Chile; access to information and social participation in the FTAA process. Criticism, within the context of globalization, was made about the importance and priorization of the process rather than on the process as such, because trade liberalization tends to delay some previous agreements that are, basically, regional and multilateral in nature.1
To better contribute to the FTAA process, social and environmental assessments of trade liberalization should be carried out with the participation of civil society, FTAA countries and multilateral organizations having expertise in trade and the environment. Another suggestion would be to find consensus for the forest management industry and sustainable patterns of consumption to guarantee conservation of biological diversity, maintain productive capacity and a healthy forest ecosystem, conserve natural resources, as well as the contribution made by forests to the carbon cycle. Countries should apply the Precautionary Principal, the very cornerstone of international environmental rights.
It is said that sustainable development must be attained through trade. To do so, the WTO agreements and the FTAA process should follow the principles of economic efficiency, fair distribution of wealth and environmental protection by, amongst others, complying and effectively applying environmental legislation. It is said that to have greater economic efficiency, there should be democratic stability, transparency in public administration, access to information and an appropriate legal - economic framework for the total internationalization of costs.
Within this setting, the WTO trade rules should be reviewed so as to assess how trade liberalization impacts on income distribution and, in turn, how it affects capacity and the call for environmental protection. Moreover, a greater transfer of technological know-how to Latin America and the Caribbean is necessary. It has been suggested that technological progress can be reached through trade agreements linked to intellectual property rights.
Let us now consider the subsidization policies for agriculture and forestry products in Chile. An international increase in forest products and an internal subsidy for reforestation are blamed for the destruction and replacement of native essences by plantations of different species of trees. According to an expert in Chile, the subsidy favored the small woodlot owner, but in actual fact the major corporations became the principal owners of these plantations and that, in turn, led to the exodus of the former towards the urban areas. That same expert recognizes that “from 1975 to 1994, the time period when the D.L. 701 (Decree 701) was in force, the small woodlot owner had scant benefit from those subsidies”.
Moreover, the foreign trade in native forest kindling wood is blamed for harming, yearly, the environment and 100,000 hectares of biologically diverse native Chilean forests. This international trade is growing rapidly and is profitable for the few large corporations who have a monopoly, but it is a poor investment for the country. It represents a mere 0.03% of the GDP and that is, economically, totally insignificant.
It has been suggested that, within the FTAA process, the D.L. 701 (Decree 701) subsidy be reviewed to assess its economic, social and environmental impact. There is a demonstrated need for a new forest trade policy that would promote, amongst other matters: banning the replacement of native forests by tree plantations and the export of kindling wood from primary forests; making more resources available for research; promoting the commercialization of added value forest products and independent forest certification. The FTAA process should establish trade policies for the reduction, re-utilization and recycling of wood products to arrest global deforestation. Policies and regulations should be established to reduce consumption, for example through the new information technologies.
Promoting the idea of citizen participation in decision making for trade and environmental matters should also be looked at in greater detail as was accepted by the WTO Members and as agreed upon at the San José, Costa Rica, meeting, in March 1998. A suggestion would be to create a similar framework to the NAFTA Environmental Cooperation Commission (ECC). There is also the need to have to justice in environmental matters when access to information at the national or international level is denied. Countries and multilateral organizations should abide by the principle of accountability and transparency in decision-making and ensure that there is greater public support for trade and environmental decisions. Access to information should be the rule and confidentiality the exception.2 Within WTO or the FTAA process, citizens’ access to information should not be subject to a binding law or vested interest. Civil servants and the administrations should always remember that States and multilateral organizations, like the WTO, are at the service of the citizen. Information should be provided expeditiously and within a reasonable time limit.
At the international level, mandatory mechanisms should be created to duly inform all States’ public, national, regional and municipal authorities of all the proposed FTAA activities. Information dealing with the assessment procedures for the transborder environmental social impacts in the Americas should be announced and provided to the general public in a timely fashion. The provision of information should be free and without prejudice for the authorities to establish a reasonable price.
To conclude, all civil servants, negotiators and public authorities should keep ever present in their minds that Man precedes and is superior to the States and their objectives and, therefore, the exercise of power by governments or delegations within multilateral organizations must always be at the service of the people and not the contrary.
1 Health protection, encouraging education, technical assistance and cooperation, environmental protection, conservation of natural resources, sustainable development and strengthening democracy.
2 National defense or public safety; industrial or trade secrets protected by law to safeguard a legitimate economic interest; intellectual property rights; confidential nature of personal data and files of an individual if consent to disclose that information to the public has been refused or when the confidential nature of this type of information is covered by national legislation; interests of a third party who provided the requested information without being compelled by law or legally bound to it and without his consent to its disclosure.
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