SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS WILL PRODUCE MORE PROTESTS THAN RESULTS – AND COULD AFFECT PROGRESS TOWARD A HEMISPHERE-WIDE FREE TRADE ZONE – SAY EXPERTS CONVENED BY THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
But most experts at Council briefing predict Free Trade of the Americas agreement by 2005 deadline. Summit of the Americas begins this Friday in Quebec
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April 19, 2001 – Protests by labor unions and environmentalists against free-trade agreements – having begun with NAFTA and expected to continue at this weekend’s Summit of Americas in Quebec – could affect progress toward a Free Trade of the Americas agreement, said five nationally renowned experts who met yesterday at a Council on Foreign Relations press briefing in Washington.
However, most experts at the Council briefing said they still expect a Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA) by the 2005 deadline.
Predicting the FTAA’s enactment were participants Bruce Stokes, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Economic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and National Journal columnist; Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty III, Vice Chairman of Kissinger, McLarty and Associates and former Special Envoy for the Americas in the Clinton Administration; the Honorable Andrés Bianchi, Ambassador of Chile to the United States; and Peter Hakim, President of the Inter-American Dialogue. Participant John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies, predicted there would be no FTAA, at least by 2005.
"The demonstrations are going to be a problem in terms of the public perception of whether the Summit is a success or not," said Bruce Stokes, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow. Stokes, like the other participants at the briefing, noted that the labor and environmental protest movements, both in the U.S. and throughout the Americas, had grown significantly since the first modern Summit of the Americas in Miami in 1994.
"But much will depend on how President Bush’s speech at the Summit is received," Stokes added. "He has to give a good speech (and) demonstrate that he can lead on an international stage."
If President Bush performs well, Stokes and the others said, momentum toward creating the FTAA would be helped. Tuesday in Washington, the President told a gathering of diplomats from the Organization of American States that "nothing we do in Quebec will be more important’’ than laying the groundwork for the FTAA, which would create a market of 800 million people with a combined gross domestic product of $9 trillion.
Bush also said Tuesday he is actively working with Congress "on a strategy for passing legislation" that would allow him to negotiate a hemispheric free trade deal. "We’ll intensify this effort when I return from Quebec," he added.
Stokes and the other participants noted that the President will find himself competing at Quebec with another show.
"The main difference between this Summit and the first two," said John Cavanagh of the Institute of Policy Studies, "is that in Miami, it was a big, happy festival with very little protest on the streets. In the last eight years, you’ve had the tremendous coming together of labor movements across the hemisphere and civil society, and there will be thousands of demonstrators outside the walls of Quebec City protesting this agreement, led by the Canadian Labor Congress and the AFL-CIO."
The participants said they expected the protests to have an impact. "Labor and the environment will have to be accommodated in some measure to achieve an FTAA," said Mack McLarty of Kissinger McLarty and Associates.
In addition to the growth of the anti-trade movement, slower than expected growth in Latin America would also produce a more sober Summit, according to Peter Hakim of the Inter-American Dialogue.
"At the Miami summit there was greater optimism in Latin America about the future, and greater expectation that the economic reforms were beginning to produce results," Hakim said. "Democracy seemed to be consolidating and everyone saw a continuous process of advance and progress. But right now, Latin America is growing far too slowly. If you look at per-capita terms, it’s hardly growing at all."
Ambassador Bianchi of Chile suggested that one possibility may be that an FTAA may be approved by 2005, but then implemented only in part.
"It means not all sections of the agreement would be in force immediately in the year 2005," the Ambassador said. "That, I think, would give some flexibility to countries that have different views and different interests on different topics. They could accept the whole package in 2005, knowing that implementation of the different sections will not start all of them exactly on the same day."
The Council on Foreign Relations press briefing on the Summit of the Americas, held on Tuesday, April 17, 2001, was moderated by Council on Foreign Relations member Tara Sonenshine of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University.