International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

November 25, 2003

November 25, 2003





** The U.S.-Mercosur pact for a "limited, yet flexible" FTAA put trade talks "back on track."


** Critics decry "FTAA lite" as a deal that retreats from the "grand vision" of the original agenda.


** Latin and Euro papers worry that Miami paves the way for the U.S. to craft bilateral "side deals," with leftists warning that U.S. "trade ambitions" will divide Latin America.




Agreement for more 'flexible' FTAA spared Miami from repeating the Cancun 'fiasco'-- Latam free trade proponents were moderately optimistic that by agreeing to a "less ambitious" but "more feasible" FTAA plan, the U.S. and Mercosur had kept hemispheric trade talks alive. The fact that the parties had prevented Miami from meeting the same fate as Cancun qualified the ministerial as a "success."  Many also declared the more "limited FTAA" as a victory for Brazil.  "Common sense and good diplomacy have prevailed," observed liberal Folha de Sao Paulo, commending both sides for making concessions and providing the FTAA with "more reasonable parameters."  While conservative Argentine, Paraguayan, Peruvian and Ecuadorian dailies hailed the FTAA as "a window to free trade with the largest consumer in the world," skeptics in Argentina, Brazil, non-Mercosur countries and Europe cautioned that the "battle is just beginning," noting "no one can guarantee" the deal will hold until its launching in 2005.


'FTAA Lite,' an 'awkward formula,' avoids the most contentious issues-- Despite the initial relief that Miami had restored FTAA negotiations, a number of critics berated the "much-watered-down pact."  Stressing that the "losers" are those countries that already have trade deals with the U.S., Canada's leading Globe and Mail averred that an FTAA lite "lets members embrace free trade where it suits their short-term interests but keeps the walls high in others."  These analysts also argued that the new FTAA failed to discuss the controversial issues of agricultural subsidies and services.  Andean countries "must be wary," Ecuador's leading centrist El Comercio advised, since there is "not yet a consensus on the most delicate subject of agricultural subsidies."  Regardless of the difficulties in the "a la carte" plan, pragmatists in Costa Rica, Canada and elsewhere decided it was the "least bad alternative."


Will bilateral deals supplant the original 'overly ambitious' multilateral scheme?--  Some writers in the hemisphere found the U.S.' offer of "attractive bilateral trade agreements" with Andean and Central American countries "confusing" and a reason for concern.  Many argued that a U.S. strategy of promoting bilateral accords "jeopardizes" the interests of all countries in the Americas and "significantly changes the commercial environment" in the hemisphere.  They echoed center-left Jornal do Brasil's assertion that an FTAA will only be realized "through a comprehensive multilateral treaty, rather than a series of bilateral accords."  Argentina's leftist Pagina 12 assailed Washington's "strategy of reaching individual mini-deals" to gain an opening just on "those topics of most interest to it."  Urging caution, editorials in Panama, Guatemala, Colombia and Ecuador also had misgivings about "negotiating with a large power that maintains protectionist barriers" and could, a Colombian writer warned, "squeeze us until the last drop."

EDITOR:  Irene Marr

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 61 reports from 18 countries, November 7-25.   Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




CANADA:  "The FTAA In Difficulty"


Bernard Descoteaux, chief editorialist of the liberal Le Devoir, opined (11/22): "Regardless of the difficulties lying on the road to the FTAA, the objective of an economic integration of the hemisphere remains worthwhile....  There is no need to throw in the towel. In this spirit, one must view as the least bad alternative, the declaration of the trade ministers in Miami, who steered the negotiation towards an 'a la carte' agreement. This awkward formula would allow everyone to submit only to the clauses that suit them....  It will take a few more years to put meat around an agreement that will really have an impact. In order to reach that stage, Washington will have to be convinced to make compromises with respect to agriculture. The heads of state will meet again in Mexico in mid-January....  Without nourishing too many illusions about the capacity of Canada to act as an intermediary between the U.S. and Brazil, the two points of resistance against any progress on the negotiations, [PM Martin] would not lose anything by trying new avenues of negotiations."


"FTAA Stalled In Miami"


The leading Globe and Mail editorialized (Internet version, 11/21):  "Yes, politics makes for strange bedfellows.   Even so, it's hard to imagine a less likely policy tag team than Brazil and the United States--whose combined protectionism is responsible for scuttling seven years of hard work by numerous nations, including Canada, toward a comprehensive FTAA....  Sadly, the grand vision of 1994 hasn't made it past Miami.   The assembly agreed to a much-watered-down pact, being referred to as FTAA lite, which lets members embrace free trade where it suits their short-term interests, but to keep the walls high in others.   The United States and Brazil were the prime movers of FTAA lite.   This was no shock....  Washington, for its part, is dead set against concessions that might water down its domestically popular U.S. Farm Bill....  President George W. Bush seems happy to preach liberal trade while currying favour with whatever sectoral lobby can win him short-term political points.   The reality is that neither Mr. da Silva nor Mr. Bush has much to gain politically from true hemispheric free trade....  The U.S., meanwhile, is busy crafting bilateral side deals.   It is negotiating separate trade agreements with five Central American countries, and contemplating bilateral talks with four other nations in the region.  The real losers in Miami are countries such as Mexico, Chile and Canada, which already have relatively open access to the U.S. market and thus had more to gain from freer trade with others among the 34 FTAA partners....  This week's FTAA talks, like the stillborn WTO gathering in Cancun last September, are further evidence that the march of global free trade has stalled.   Only dogged determination and goodwill can restart it."  


ARGENTINA: "Realism In FTAA Negotiations"


An editorial in leading Clarin held (11/23): "In many ways, the outcome of the FTAA summit in Miami is a consequence of negotiators' realism. The original project posed a multilateral negotiation scheme, hard to be sustained because it could imply the need for making compatible the interests of 34 countries having very different sizes and foreign trade legislation....  However, the U.S. made some positions flexible so that the project in which it has a strategic interest will not have a dead end. For their part, Argentina and Brazil will continue negotiations, bearing in mind that unwanted commercial tension and policies could be created....  The existing tensions in Miami were not enough to create a new Cancun but they prevented the original agenda from coming into reality. Miami negotiators drafted a statement in which they formally state the project but, with a more flexible and realistic criterion, paved the way for bilateral negotiations that will likely dominate the commercial scenario in the immediate future."


"The FTAA Gives Itself More Time To Overcome Disagreement"


Horacio Riggi observed in business-oriented El Cronista (11/21): "The victory of the U.S.' and Mercosur's position to create a flexible FTAA, which ended up favoring Argentina, barely disguised the failure of the Miami summit...particularly if one bears in mind that the ultimate goal was implementing it by 2005, something that was truncated yesterday through a joint statement....  According to an unidentified Mexican government official, the U.S. was basically responsible for the boycott of the FTAA....  [T]he deal signed on Thursday by the countries' ministers consisted of reaching a flexible FTAA allowing to reach bilateral or multilateral deals within the same hemisphere, something that was first rejected by those countries having reached trade deals with the U.S., such as Mexico, Chile and Canada."


"The FTAA Summit Ended One Day Ahead Of Schedule With A Limited Deal"


Ana Baron, Washington-based correspondent for leading Clarin commented (11/21): "The real arm-wrestling has just started.  During the summit, the U.S. has launched a series of parallel negotiations with some countries and group of nations that want to advance faster in trade opening. Many interpret the offensive as an instrument to pressure Brazil.  In fact, if the FTAA fails, Brazil, Argentina and the other members of Mercosur could end up being the only countries without having reached a trade deal with the U.S.  Nevertheless, the summit was a victory for Brazil.  After all, it was the Brazilian government who proposed the idea of a limited FTAA and the one who imposed it on the U.S. , who wanted a more ambitious deal.... Without any doubt, the summit confirmed that Brazil has emerged as a commercial power.... It also confirmed the U.S. little maneuvering margin when it comes to negotiate with attractive markets like the Brazilian one. From the very start, it was clear there would not be FTAA without Brazil."


"Argentina Joins A Limited FTAA And Continues Its Direct Negotiation With The U.S."


Carlos Burgueño observed in business-oriented Ambito Financiero (11/21): "The Argentine Government found its key to defining the future of its commercial relationship with the U.S. without altering its relationship with Brazil as a Mercosur member. It will join Lula in the signature of a deal within a 'light' FTAA (or mini-FTAA) that will only include some specific chapters and will not advance in a global free trade area including all categories and goods from the 32 countries directly participating in the discussions. Nonetheless, the (Argentine) Foreign Ministry will continue negotiating bilateral deals under the 'country-by-country, product-by-product formula.' This double position.... would allow the Argentine government to maintain during 2004 the two most important economic integration processes Argentina has joined: Mercosur and market opening, like the US and Mexico. According to the Argentine view, this strategy would be more profitable (in terms of amount of exports) than opting for the signature of a free trade deal with the US, which, on the other hand, it would not be able to do if it wants to continue being a Mercosur partner."


"The FTAA Will Favor Mercosur"


Business, right-wing InfoBae carried an opinion piece by former foreign minister Adalberto Rodriguez Giavarini stating (11/21):  "The FTAA will bring economic and social benefits through trade that will improve Latin American governability and will increase hemispheric security for the U.S. and, while there is a weak image of the U.S. in Argentina and Uruguay, according to an opinion survey performed by the Ibero-American Consortium of Market Research and Consulting Corporations..., the average view of the region is favorable, in particular of the Andean Community and Central-American countries."


"The FTAA Will Not Favor Us"


Leading Clarin carried an op-ed piece by Raul Alfonsin, former chief of State, who stated (11/20): "First and foremost, we have to bear in mind that the FTAA implementation is a goal and instrument of the U.S. foreign policy aimed at the opening of LA markets for its exporting supply. This...should be considered a State policy whose seeming objective is forming a free trade deal without barriers imposed on trade and investment....  But Washington does not limit its ambition to trade negotiations within the FTAA.  It wants the FTAA country-members to assume commitments to the measure of its own interests on diverse issues such as governmental purchases, investment, IPR, environment and labor rules.... We face the clear challenge that a much more hegemonic system than the current one will be formed in America.... The relationship is asymmetric and we will be subject to strong pressures, typical of the Bush administration, which became a serious risk for the world....  Trade deals will not limit Washington's ability to act unilaterally.... This means that under the FTAA framework we run the risk of the main trading powers imposing the negotiation agenda without obtaining meaningful tradeoffs related to the topics of interest to Mercosur."


"FTAA, a Great Opportunity"


An editorial in daily-of-record La Nacion (11/19):  "The creation of a hemispheric free trade area--FTAA--is a political goal of great importance and interest in the long term and deserves full support of our national government....  We need to recognize how convenient it is for Argentina to negotiate FTAA through joint actions with Mercosur countries.  This will allow for a better negotiating capacity and also the possibility of improving the agreements of our regional market.  Integration is an instrument, not a goal in itself.  FTAA should help promote peace, disarmament and the creation of a broader regional market. And it should also be, above all, the base for Argentina's effective integration in world economy."


"The U.S. And Mercosur Come To An Agreement On A More Limited FTAA"


Eleonora Gosman, Sao Paulo-based correspondent for leading Clarin, wrote (11/18): "The FTA ministerial summit got on track yesterday because over the weekend the United States agreed with Mercosur on the groundwork for a less ambitious FTAA project.  Drafted by Argentina and Brazil and with Washington's consent...the project proposes to remodel the FTAA and it grants flexibility to the FTAA so that countries like Argentina and Brazil can join the FTAA. The former rigid program did not allow for this initiative.... The Mercosur-U.S. proposal considers a 'possible' FTAA to be implemented by 2005. 'It is a minimal FTAA, but it is in evolution,' said Eduardo Sigal, undersecretary for Economic Integration of the region."


"Claims To Washington Are Now Made By Other Countries"


Ana Baron, Washington-based correspondent for leading Clarin, wrote (11/18): "FTAA negotiations have divided the hemisphere. The fracture is not between the U.S. and Brazil, as predicted by many observers. The ones offering big resistance are: Chile, Canada, Mexico and all the Andean and Caribbean countries who already signed or are about to sign free trade deals with the U.S.  On the eve of the Miami ministerial summit, Chile and Canada said they oppose a 'light' FTAA as the one proposed by the U.S. and which every country can bilaterally negotiate the thorniest issues.  In a four-page document, Chile and Canada said they want 'an overall, balanced and multilateral' deal."


"No Free Trade Deal, In Anticipation Of The Obstacles Met By The FTAA"


Cledis Candelaresi, economic columnist of left-of-center Pagina 12, judged (11/18): "Many...problems in the regional trade network will be made public in the FTAA summit....   However, Mercosur will bring a common position to Miami: the idea that the FTAA allows for deals having 'different degree of commitment,' something that in fact hinders a big regional pact....   Instead of being a concern for Washington, this encourages it to continue with its strategy of reaching individual mini-deals in which it obtains opening in exactly those topics of most interest to it and continues relegating controversial issues to the WTO, were negotiations are irremediably stalled since the failure of the Cancun summit."


"A Tale Of Two Summits"


Michael Soltys, executive editor of liberal, English-language Buenos Aires Herald mused (11/18):  "Brazil has shifted from stonewalling to a willingness to agree with the United States on a bilateral approach where multilateralism proves too ambitious....   Rather than any overall framework, the idea would then be an 'a la carte' FTAA in which each country would only go as far as it wants in any given sector.  While Latin countries tend to be obsessed with agriculture, the U.S. wants to multiply sectors - to include services, investment, patents and state purveyance. The smart Latin American move would be to encourage this for at least two reasons. Firstly, it would open the way to much-needed investment here. Secondly, it might stiffen internal opposition to farm subsidies...if these are perceived as blocking hemispheric opportunities for everybody else in the United States. The fact that U.S. presidential elections are now less than a year away has generated plenty of skepticism as to whether Washington will be capable of any meaningful concessions until then.... But the real enemy of progress in Miami is the global economic slowdown of the past couple of years that makes world trade seem more of a zero sum game.  In any case Latin American countries should not so blithely blame the U.S. without some self-criticism first. How open are Brazil and Argentina to each other, for example, within Mercosur?"


"Proposal: Making FTAA Goals More Flexible"


Jorge Rosales, daily-of-record La Nacion U.S.-based correspondent, on special assignment in Miami, wrote (11/17):  "In order to see the dawning of FTAA in January 2005, the last stage in negotiations must focus on three key issues: flexibility, realism and a possible agreement. With this purpose, and despite the differences that still prevail regarding access to markets, farm subsidies and investments, the U.S. and Brazil--in the name of Mercosur--agreed to propose to the other hemispheric countries a final document of the Miami summit, urging for a more flexible position aimed at taking into consideration the needs of the countries, which will open the door to bilateral agreements on issues where there isn't hemispheric understanding.... Over the weekend, USTR Robert Zoellick said he's optimistic regarding the result of the summit, though he recognized that there are still differences and tough issues to solve."


"FTAA Negotiations"


An editorial in leading Clarin read (11/14): "During Washington's recent meeting, the U.S., as well as Argentina and Brazil, softened their positions in an attempt to prevent the Miami summit from risking the same fate as Cancun.... In sum, during the Washington meeting, the U.S. and Mercosur made their positions more flexible, revitalizing FTAA negotiations.  Argentina and Brazil must bear in mind the costs and benefits of the openness process."


BRAZIL: "Brazil Between Two Deadlines"


Helio Jaguaribe reflected in center-right O Globo (11/23): "The negotiations that started at the Miami ministerial regarding the FTAA project call for Brazil's awareness that the country is facing two highly important deadlines....  As it has been observed by competent commentators...the FTAA project such as presented by the U.S., meant Brazil's conversion to an American satellite.  To sign it would have been an act of national suicide....  Nevertheless, Brazil opted for a 'lite' FTAA....  That one will not lead to Mercosul's death, what will inevitably lead to the suppression of all custom barriers, including the foreign common tariff, Mercosul's important, central item.  A 'lite' FTAA that doesn't include a satisfactory fifteen-year deadline--at least for the preservation of the common foreign tariff--won't be 'lite.' It will be lethal.  It's absolutely essential that everyone in this country, both government and opposition, politicians, common citizens become aware that Mercosul's preservation represents a sine-qua-non condition to our historical future and an even strongest one to our remaining partners....   The Lula government noticed this extremely serious possibility: of that being the moment in which it will be defined our total submission or the process that will lead to full development.  The task ahead of us along with Argentina and remaining Mercosul partners represents on one side the preservation and consolidation of this system.  On the other, the transformation into the engine of our accelerated development."


"FTAA Still Alive"


The lead editorial in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo commented (11/22): "Re-launching the FTAA was the main goal for Brazil and the U.S. in the Miami ministerial meeting, and from that standpoint the conference was a success. But no one can guarantee that the plan will survive into 2004 and that an accord of hemispheric integration will be inaugurated on Jan. 1, 2005.... Representatives of several nations have been skeptical about the development of negotiations. Despite that, the result of the Miami meeting is far from being negligible. It was the product of well-conducted diplomatic action by Americans and Brazilians.... The 'light' FTAA was the plan that could accommodate the enormous differences separating the U.S. from Brazil and its Mercosul partners."


"A Step Forward In The FTAA Talks"


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo (11/22) editorialized: "Contrary to those who were anticipating Brazil's failure or isolation in the FTAA negotiations, what everyone saw in Miami was USTR Robert Zoellick along with Brazilian Formin Celso Amorim announcing an understanding aimed at a so-called 'light' FTAA. In sum, although far from being conclusive, the step achieved in Miami was the result of concessions from both sides based on a more flexible view of what the FTAA should be--as Brazil wanted.... Common sense and good diplomacy have prevailed. What has seemed clear since the beginning has been recognized such an understanding could hardly be reached through a homogeneous solution.... To outline [the requirements of] a minimal accord and so gain time for more detailed consideration of the diverse interests involved was the way to ensure the FTAA's continuity [and] providing it with more reasonable parameters."


"Limits Of A 'Light' FTAA"


University Professor Gesner Oliveira opined in liberal Folha de S. Paulo (11/22): "It was a diplomatic outcome. On the one hand, the Miami meeting cannot be considered a failure, like that of the WTO in Cancun. Many goodwill statements reaffirmed the participants' commitment to the FTAA deadline.  On the other hand, definitions have been poor.... The Miami meeting would generate more attention only under extreme conditions, which are very unlikely in the current climate.... If the FTAA were speeded up, Brazil and Mercosul would naturally become relatively more attractive areas for direct investments, with positive results for exports and growth. However, such a scenario is very unlikely, at least in the short run. The U.S.'s willingness to make significant concessions is small and the subordination of discussions of more relevant topics for Mercosul--such as those involving agriculture--to the WTO round restricts the possibility of immediate advancement. Therefore, the commitment to a 'light' FTAA, that is, an accord limited to agreed-upon topics, seems realistic at present."


"FTAA: A Call To Reason"


Sergio Tostes stressed in center-left Jornal do Brasil (11/20): "It's necessary to understand that the FTAA is essential to Brazil, the U.S. and the remaining countries of the Americas as a counterpoint to the European Community's increasing protectionist tendency.  It's advisable that all countries of the Americas understand each other in order to realize the FTAA efficiently.  And this will only occur through a comprehensive multilateral treaty, rather than a series of bilateral accords. Here it also prevails the rule that the whole is bigger than the total of its parties: the total sum of bilateral accords doesn't make one multilateral accord. On the contrary, it makes it unfeasible.  The strategy of bilateral accords jeopardizes the U.S. itself, since its own interests would be better met in the context of a unique, compact trade block, following ECM's pattern, rather than through a series of bilateral accords.  And this would obviously impair the remaining  countries of the Americas, since in practice they wouldn't be able to attain the advantages of such series of bilateral treaties.  The solution for the outcome of FTAA negotiations will have to be for the benefit of all American countries, with no exceptions, or else all of them will end up losing."


 "Zoellick Aims His Guns"


An editorial in center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo commented (11/20): "With or without the FTAA, the U.S. will negotiate commercial agreements with most Latin-American countries and whomever is not part of them, will be isolated...this was the message from USTR Robert Zoellick to Brazil as he announced his government's intention to start negotiating with other 6 countries....  The USTR said that the FTAA is still a very important part of the U.S strategy, but not the only one....   It is important to take seriously an unavoidable fact: bilateral agreements change significantly the commercial environment in the hemisphere...the GOB seems to not be aware of or to underrate this fact....  If one does not understand this point, will never be able to understand anything else in matters of commercial interests....   Each one of the agreements with these smaller countries may seriously hurt Brazilian interests. If for nothing else, this fact alone should be make Brazilians be concerned with the USG's strategy of forging bilateral agreements."


"FTAA And La Fontaine's Fox"


An op-ed article by economist Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. in liberal Folha de Sao Paulo stated (11/20): "The news from Miami indicates that, for now, the U.S and other countries will accept Brazil's preference for an FTAA agreement that is less broad and more flexible than the original one...the USG's retreat is temporary and a matter of tactics. The motivation is obvious: the USG wants to avoid a fiasco similar to the one in Cancun, which, this time, would take place in Florida, a state governed by president Bush's brother and in Miami, a city that intends to host the FTAA headquarters...other governments did criticize a lot the new format...countries that already have broad free trade agreements with the USG insist that Brazil, Argentina and the other participants of the FTAA should follow the same kind of commitment...they're like the fox in La Fontaine's tale, who, having lost its tail on a trap, tried to convince the others that not having a tail was the latest fashion....  Washington has indicated many times that it does not want to make any commitments in the FTAA regarding anti-dumping, neither change its policy of protecting the agricultural sector.  To sum up: the battle is just beginning."


"Itamaraty Manages To Half-Stall The FTAA"


Columnist Sergio Leo said in business-oriented Valor Econômico (11/20): "Which rules will be valid for every country and which ones the countries will be able to choose from in the FTAA negotiations is the big controversy that [USTR] Zoellick agreed to push to be discussed later in order to avoid a fiasco in Miami. But the postponed debate may throw the negotiations in a mudhole in the next months...even U.S businessmen see the aggressive strategy of forging bilateral agreements launched by Zoellick as a way to put pressure on Brazil...the ways the Brazilian diplomacy found to change the pace and the direction of the negotiations did not please the NGOs that oppose the FTAA either...but all parties agree on one thing: the deadline of 2005 for the implementation of the FTAA started to sink in Miami."


"Effort To Re-Launch The FTAA"


The lead editorial in center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo stressed (11/18): "Re-launching the FTAA project, which was stuck and almost jeopardized as a result of differences between Brazil and the U.S., will be sufficient so that the ministerial meeting in Miami is considered a success.  At least for the Brazilian and U.S. negotiators, this is the central goal of the conference.... The new FTAA plan is much less ambitious than the original, but it is more feasible. This, however, does not ensure the final success of the negotiations or even a good result from the Miami meeting.... The interests of other nations have emerged more clearly as possible obstacles to the progress of negotiations.... To agree with the Chilean and Canadian proposal would represent reopening all controversies that led the FTAA discussion to an impasse. The risk of this type of problem will remain until the end of the Miami meeting."


"Unthinkable Alliance: Brazil and the U.S. Support a 'Light' FTAA"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo economic commentator Clovis Rossi reported from Miami (11/17): "The accord between Brazil and the U.S. on a limited FTAA has produced a situation that was unthinkable a few days ago: both nations, now allied, have had to defend their new 'view' of the FTAA against attacks by Canada, Chile and Mexico, the nations that want an FTAA that adheres to the previous, more ambitious plan.... The U.S. and Brazil want to prevent Miami from becoming another Cancun.... Will it be possible?  The Brazilian delegation guarantees it is."


"Advances In The FTAA"


Right-of-center O Globo asserted in its editorial (11/16):  "( At the Miami Summit) what will be at stake are the concessions that FTAA partners, especially Brazil and the U.S., are willing make to turn free trade area into reality....  The greatest resistance to free trade to make FTAA feasible is still concentrated in the U.S. Congress.  The Executive Branch seems inclined now to eliminate restrictions involving farm business....  Brazilian and American authorities have been expressing optimism vis-a-vis negotiations developments on such differences.  Miami may then effectively be the initial benchmark of the FTAA.  It's necessary to understand that each country has its own constraints, its political difficulties."


"An Effort To Prevent Another Fiasco"


Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo commented (11/11): "Brazilians and Americans finally seem willing to carry out an effort to make the FTAA negotiations advance. The first step toward doing so is averting failure in the Miami ministerial meeting next week.... The risk of a fiasco seems to be diminished after the weekend conversations in Washington among representatives of the 14 major economies of the Americas....  However, nothing ensures that the Miami meeting will have a happy ending. The Americans will also face during the conference significant internal pressures against the formation of the FTAA. Labor unions, business groups and farmers are preparing major demonstrations....  If such pressures prevail, the Americans will bear the political burden of having prevented or retarded the creation of the FTAA."   




An editorial in business-oriented El Financiero read (11/21): "In spite of the demonstrations...the FTAA ministerial in Miami brought about an agreement that will favor the integration of the FTAA, even before it was expected.  The result was a product of the hard work by the White House with Brazilian authorities.…  The FTAA is part of the so-called Washington Consensus that is based on the practical failure of the Uruguay Round, where developing countries refused to go along with U.S. hegemony so easily, just as happened in Cancun.  The achievements in Miami are nothing other than a 'light' agreement which favors Washington's interests."


CHILE:  "Warnings Regarding Free Trade"


Raul Sohr commented in government-owned, editorially independent La Nacion (11/21):  "The date of the hemispheric summit in Miami coincides with the tenth anniversary of the treaty signed by the United States and Mexico, but how are things between these two countries? According to a Carnegie Endowment International report, two myths went unfulfilled: that the treaty would result in more jobs in Mexico, and that Mexico's gains would cause job losses in the U.S....  The treaty clearly hurt one group: poor, mostly indigenous Mexican farmers....  The rebellion in Chiapas began as a protest against free trade, which was also the cause for civil unrest in Bolivia....  The report states something that is obvious, but that is often ignored: 'More than just free trade is needed to improve the standard of living of the world's poor.'  The magic of trade does not resolve inequity....  Mexico's experience deserves greater attention on the part of those who don't want to make the same mistakes."


"A Summit To Forget"


Leading circulation, popular independent La Tercera commented (11/19):  "The regional press has underlined the importance of the XIII Ibero-American Summit...that just concluded in Santa Cruz, Bolivia....  But for the summit's declaration to have any value, there must be an environment of confidence in the region....  The unfortunate support Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner gave Evo not exactly a good example of Latin American unity, especially when Kirchner did not 'have time' to meet with the Bolivia's president.  What kind of signal is that for Bolivia about respect among Latin American governments?  But beyond specific events, the deeper concern is the loss of confidence among South American nations....  Achieving progress in the region and fighting poverty through regional alliances are goals that will be difficult to accomplish while the climate of distrust this summit revealed persists."


 "The Miami Summit"


A comment in business-oriented El Diario stated (11/19):  "Representatives from 34 countries will meet tomorrow and Friday in Miami to discuss the FTAA....  The views expressed by Latin American countries show that behind the opposition or interest to limit the scope of the agreement lies a dangerous lack of trust in the United States."


"Why Chile Wants An FTAA"


The Foreign Ministry's general director for international economic relations Osvaldo Rosales asserted in popular, conservative afternoon La Segunda (11/18):   "FTAA countries represent 45% of our foreign trade and about 70% of foreign investment in Chile and almost all of Chile's investment abroad.  Therefore, the intent to have clear regulations and commitment on areas that our regional agreements do not cover, like services, investment and public purchases, for example, is fully consistent with our export strategy."




Leading editorial in Bucaramanga-based daily Vanguardia Liberal (11/21): “At the negotiating table, there will be no paternalism; it will be face to face and each party will try to gain more than the other.... The lawsuit among those that do business within the FTA framework will be resolved by American referees, following U.S. laws, and never according to Colombian laws....  Instead of getting excited it is important to ponder; the FTA is more than a challenge for the Government and the businessmen. It is topic of national concern.”


"FTA: Threat Or Opportunity?"


An op-ed by Presidential advisor Rudolf Hommes in top national El Tiempo stated (11/21): “If we negotiate well and sign an FTA with the U.S., work opportunities will be available in Colombia, instead of the need to emigrating to U.S.... Curiously, the FTA that is seen here as a U.S. imposition, could bring many benefits for Colombia.”


"Free Trade Agreement (With The U.S.): A Challenge For Many"


An op-ed by former minister Juan Manuel Santos running in top national El Tiempo and Barranquilla-based El Heraldo stated (11/16): “It is very important that the Nation understands what we are undertaking....   It will be...a development plan for the next fifty years....  The (Colombian) government should be the first one to realize very clearly what they want and what are they willing to give. The treaty is good or bad for the nation depending on the ability and the knowledge of the negotiators.  And it is no game, because we are negotiating with the leading world power that will squeeze us up to the last drop.”


COSTA RICA: "FTAA Reaffirms (Its) Commitment"


Business journal La Republica commented (11/24): "The Miami agreement is less ambitious than the one launched in 1994, but it did result in a commitment to begin the process in 2005..the meeting resulted in the participating countries evading the failure of Cancun....  As stated by Zoellick... great strides were made so that the FTAA now enters into a new phase allowing for a greater commitment via bilateral agreements...while neither agricultural subsides nor patents nor the protection of the environment was discussed, at least the continent can now count on a structure which can begin to move in 2004...we share the vision of Trade Minister Alberto Trejos that Costa Rica has always recognized the importance in the process of growth and development of the hemisphere and our interest has been to achieve a comprehensive and multilateral agreement...that takes into account the needs of the smaller economies....  Although a commitment  of this desired ambition was not achieved, the agreement reached takes into account the political and economic realities that affect some nations in the hemisphere.... Costa Rica should continue to seek opportunities for all its citizens, not only consumers but also businessmen so that we can all raise our productivity based on our ingenuity and work."


"A Muted Agreement"


The lead editorial in most influential La Nacion stated (11/23): "We would have wished for more substantial advancement and maintenance of the original January 1, 2005 objectives.... The reality however, is that this muted agreement...resulted in a point of departure for continued advancement.  The alternative would have been worse...given the failure of Cancun it was not worth risking a similar result in Miami....  Our nation should maintain its insistence on the achievement of a FTAA, continue active involvement in the WTO negotiations to improve the world climate on trade and take advantage of all reasonable bilateral and regional (trade) treaties."


CUBA:  "The FTAA And The Legalization Of Imperialism."


The Union of Young Communists' Juventud Rebelde ran a commentary by Argentine intellectual Atilio Boron also published in Argentina's Pagina 12  (11/21):  "The international system is going through an extraordinarily dangerous phase, the result of the implosion of the post-war world order and of the insane militarization that the White House is promoting as its sole response to the challenges of our times.... Given these far from auspicious conditions, Washington's pressure to launch the FTAA as soon as possible is understandable.   It would give the United States absolute control--economic, political, and military control--of the vast geographic space that extends from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.... Despite all the neoliberal verbiage that portrays the FTAA as a beneficial trade integration plan, the FTAA is really a plan for continental annexation....  This is the ultimate triumph of the Monroe Doctrine, now in the deceptive guise of simple trade integration.  In the present circumstances, creating the FTAA would be tantamount to legalizing and institutionalizing the colonial pillage promoted by the Washington Consensus policies that the peoples of the region have suffered from for decades.   That why the drafts of this plan have been discussed only among 'experts' and have been kept away from any form of public scrutiny. The reason for this is very simple: the true objectives of the FTAA cannot be stated in public....  FTAA is incompatible with freedom, justice, democracy and the well being of our peoples." 


ECUADOR:  "External Fragmentation of Latin America"


An editorial in leading centrist El Comercio judged (11/19): "The subject of the FTAA has risen again with the ministerial that is taking place in Miami, but the messages being conveyed [from the U.S.] have only caused confusion among the peoples of Latin America who, ultimately, will be the recipients of the benefits or suffer the damages of such an ambitious plan.  Add to this confusing scenario the tendency by some countries of advancing bilateral free trade agreements with the U.S...which may mean that those countries that do not complete such negotiations will have to join the process at the end and cause the imposition of rigid conditions by larger interests.   Although there are some signals of flexibility by floating an 'FTAA lite,' the Andean countries must be wary....  There is not yet a consensus on the most delicate subject of agricultural subsidies.  In this field, the U.S. position is hard because [so many states depend on subsidies.]   In Ecuador's case, the situation is dramatic....  We are behind compared to Colombia and Peru; internally there is not a unified position adopted by the public sector and private productive interests....  The national government should clearly state its negotiation parameters because negotiating with a large power that maintains protectionist barriers...could mean dooming our agricultural sector due to the asymmetry of economies."


"Small Economies And The FTAA"


An opinion column by Eva Garcia Fabre in Guayaquil's (and Ecuador's) center-right El Universo held (11/13):  "The most important integration project of modern times is, undoubtedly, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)....  With the differences in countries' size and the asymmetry in development levels, the impact may be either positive or devastating....  But this is not about a club for the poor, but about arriving at accords that meet the needs of the country and that would turn integration, for the first time, into an instrument of development for us, in the style of the European Union....  Any special differential treatment must be temporary, because we do not want to be poor always....  Brazil is trying to consolidate its leadership in the face of discriminatory policies from the largest countries, such as subsidies....  It is important that the government, which will be in charge of negotiations, do so after achieving accords and consensus internally with the civil society and productive sectors that generate business and jobs....  In this way, it will become an opportunity not a threat." 


"Agriculture And Openness"


An opinion column by Kurt Freund Ruf in Quito's leading centrist El Comercio asserted (11/7):  "We should carefully analyze the way in which the Exports Association from Chile (ASOEX) in its chapter covering fruits, states that the core issue in a negotiating process not only include tariffs, the reduction of internal subsidies, and the traditional conflict between rich and poor, but also the decision on how to develop an approach that allows an adequate strategy for preparing internally, for identifying truly negotiable products from the market point of view that would lead to sustainable competitive advantages."




Orlando Alcivar Santos observed in  Guayaquil's (and Ecuador's) leading center-right El Universo (11/7): "As 2005 is just around the corner and progress in the treaty negotiations has yet to be achieved, nor does it seem it will in the near future, at least while Brazil, Latin America's largest economy, maintains its position of awaiting for the elimination of agricultural subsidies in the U.S., some countries on an individual basis, such as Chile has already done, are trying to negotiate bilateral trade agreement with the U.S.  The idea is a good one if we take into consideration that the U.S. is the biggest market on the planet...but at the same time, businessmen, industrials, and the government itself should not harbor illusions, and must understand very clearly that a negotiation of this caliber--because of what it implies--will take at least three years even if at a fast pace."


GUATEMALA: "The United States Must Not Force The Signing Of CAFTA"


Business-oriented Siglo Veintiuno (11/17):  "There is a certain anxiety by the U.S. Government to accelerate the signing of CAFTA....  Colin Powell took a sudden trip to Panama, Nicaragua and Honduras, where he expressed his country's desire for the negotiations not to exceed the set time frame....  The White House should be realistic and understand that conditions for signing CAFTA in December are not optimal in Central America.  They should also consider that Guatemala is undergoing a crucial point in its political process...and that pressures regarding time are not recommended."


PANAMA: "FTA On The Run"


Conservative El Panama America editorialized (11/20):  "It took Chile 11 years to sign its FTA with the United States.… It can be a long process.… We [this newspaper] were the first to celebrate the initiation of FTA negotiations....  But also, we advised caution regarding the time that would be involved in the negotiations....  After Tuesday's announcement we are extremely worried because President Moscoso had stated she expects to sign the treaty before the end of her administration, which ends in 10 months.  This is not enough time to obtain a treaty that would assure Panama's interests , especially because of our lack of experience in this type of negotiation.... The disadvantage, in relation to our counterpart's team, will be overwhelming, and therefore, we need to act with caution and without any hurry."


PARAGUAY:  "FTAA Benefits"


A regular columnist for fourth largest and conservative La Nacion editorialized (11/23): "Countries don't have permanent friends, they have permanent interests.... Our national interest is not marriage with Brazil nor romance with the United States.  Our national interest is to get the biggest possible benefits from our relationship with these two giants....  For this reason I think it would be infantile, naive and potentially damaging to abandon the FTAA because a few nostalgic people don't like it."


"Hard Work And Efficiency Will Be Rewarded"


A regular columnist for fourth largest and conservative La Nacion commented (11/23): "The FTAA is a window to free trade with the largest consumer of the world.  It is a guarantee that hard work and efficiency will be rewarded.  It is no more and no less.  Without this Latin America will continue being what the Catholic church wants it to be, a vast expanse for an obedient and miserable herd." 


 "U.S. Has Too Much Influence"


A regular columnist for largest circulation ABC Color editorialized (11/22):  "The crucial stage for signing the FTAA is coming.... Our government has not consulted us nor clearly informed us about the most important parts [of the agreement].... The United States has too much the economies and policies of our continent.  Ideally, we would have stopped the ball, to see the situation of our economies, faced each other as Latin Americans, shaken hands and seen what model of integration is in our interests and is suitable for the rest of the world.  But this is idealism that the almighty market and American pragmatism don't like at all."


"The FTAA Is A Clone Of NAFTA"


An invited columnist for second-largest and left-of-center Ultima Hora editorialized (11/22): "The FTAA is a clone of NAFTA, and according to those who know and suffer has had terrible consequences for Mexico, its poor people, its small industries, its environment, and its economy as a whole....   For now, our prescription should continue being 'help yourself'.  To spend less and to produce more and better [products], teaching ourselves to consume what we produce, and most of all, within a framework of transparency and competition."


"The FTAA Is An Idea Launched In Miami"


In its lead editorial, largest circulation ABC Color editorialized (11/21): "The FTAA is an opportunity for the countries of Latin America to take full advantage of, taking into consideration the immense market represented by the United States, the largest economy in the world.  The thing to do with the FTAA is to encourage the maximum intelligence and imagination to derive every advantage possible, and not as some want to do: invent and maintain spurious and absurd pretexts to keep us in poverty and underdevelopment."


PERU:  "FTAA A La Carte"


Pro-business Gestion declared in its editorial (11/21):  "The agreement reached in Miami by the 34 nations participating in the FTAA negotiations is an important step forward, especially if we consider that a few weeks ago there was concern about a possible failure.… There are still a number of issues to be solved (like the terms for reduction of tariffs)…if we want that the FTAA to begin in 2005 as programmed."


"FTA: We Need Reforms In Order To Benefit From It"


Rightist, influential leading El Comercio editorialized (11/20): "The announcement that formal negotiations of an FTA with the U.S. will begin next year is very positive.… A window of  [opportunities] with great potential will be opened for the development of our economy based on exports.  It is therefore urgent to outline a [national] agenda to appropriately negotiate the terms of the agreement… Another indispensable condition is to become more competitive...and consolidate the reform of the justice system in order to offer security to investors.… We recognize the efforts of the government [of Peru] to advance towards a [bilateral] FTA...but there is a long way ahead to run."


"Green Light To FTA"


An editorial in center-left  La Republica judged (11/20): "The announcement made by USTR, Robert Zoellick...on the U.S. government's intention to initiate FTA good news for Peru… An FTA by itself is not good or bad, it depends on how it is negotiated and Peruvian negotiators must try to protect in the best possible way [Peru's] interests.… We are in the face of a great challenge, certainly the most important and decisive in many years.… Let us make this negotiation a national objective and we will benefit from it."


URUGUAY:  "An Unhealthy Birth"


Conservative business El Observador commented (11/20): "These undefeatable barriers led to the vulnerable recipe created by the United States and Brazil, who rapidly started seeking supporters, offering rewards and suggesting punishment, and therefore leading Uruguay to a blind alley with their propaganda. Washington announced immediate negotiations for attractive bilateral free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, something profitable that our country attempted to accomplish without success at the beginning of this year.  Meanwhile, Brazil told us that –if we supported their posture--they would give us loans to improve our ports and railway system. Uruguay will have to look for the most appropriate option with tact and prudence as the promise of growth that is implied with the implementation of FTAA has lost power since this association will be born within the scheduled date but not strong enough in regards to integration."


"This Time Brazil Is Right"


The lead editorial in conservative, business-oriented El Observador explained (11/7):  "Despite Uruguay's disenchantment with Brazil over unfulfilled promises of greater open markets...and our resistance to its policy of continental hegemony, one must recognize that the government of President Lula is right in its showdown with the United States over conditioning the birth of the FTAA on the inclusion of agricultural trade.  Washington wants to keep the reduction of agricultural subsidies and protectionism in the WTO, and to the margins of the projected FTAA.  But the failure of the recent WTO meeting in Cancun...indicates that the agricultural exporting nations have little to hope from what remains of the tottering Doha round of the WTO.... Uruguay urgently needs to expand its exports, but not at any cost.  This goal must guide the government position in the coming meeting on the FTAA, taking into account the advantage of combating agricultural subsidies and protectionism without damaging the bilateral accords now progressing with the United States over specific export items."  


VENEZUELA:  "FTAA-CAN-US, Without Venezuela?"


Juan Pablo Sucre G. commented in leading liberal El Nacional (11/23): "In the framework of the FTAA discussions, CAN countries and the U.S. take an important step in their relations, a goal that our four Andean partners have been seeking for a long time.  Nevertheless, Chávez's efforts to obstruct hemispheric free trade and his constant confrontation with the U.S., have led them to exclude us from any negotiation to integrate our trade.  Contrary to what Chávez says, more access of our products to the American markets would help us consolidate our offer of hydrocarbons and become more competitive in other items in order to export more to that country, and create clear rules to stimulate more investments.  All this would boost economic growth, which would also help reduce poverty and improve the standards of living of many citizens.  The beginning of such negotiations without Venezuela is still a recent idea; we must move quickly so that we cannot be left out of this important trade agreement."


"Chavista Globalphobia" 


Telmo Almada commented in leading liberal El Nacional (11/23): "Chávez's posture against the FTAA is not exactly a globalphobic posture.  It's simpler than that: it is merely an anti-American complex.  Chávez's rhetoric against the FTAA starts to show results.  The United States has announced that it does not have any interest in sitting to negotiate the terms under which Venezuela would join the FTAA, even though it will do so with the rest of the nations of the Andean Community, a trade bloc despised by Chávez due to its 'neoliberal' spirit.  This, as it is plain to see, is also a rhetorical argument.  These rebellious attitudes will only isolate our country and distance us from our natural partners and that is a cost that will have to be paid for later on, when we will have to join the world stream very late and at a disadvantage.  Venezuelans will lose the chance to have an effective impact on the decisions that will shape the next decades of trade in the hemisphere."


"FTAA, From Cancún To Miami"


Lawyer Juan Pablo Sucre commented in leading liberal El Nacional (11/14): “One of the main priorities of the Bush administration is the implementation of the FTAA by 2005....  The U.S. has made a turnaround in its strategy, launched some months ago, that excluded the negotiation of important issues for trade, such as agricultural subsidies and the antidumping measures, since they would exclusively be addressed at the WTO, which gave origin to the label  'FTAA Lite.'  Due to this change, the United States might consider those issues as part of the agenda of the hemispheric trade liberalization talks, again....  As we can see, most of the countries of the Americas prepare to liberalize hemispheric trade.  It is high time Venezuelans started a deep debate in order to train our productive sector to face the big challenge that the FTAA poses.”




GERMANY:  "Partnership"


Hildegard Stausberg editorialized in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (11/22):   "This was not a big hit, but a compromise that was achieved in Miami.  This at least helped avoid a failure of the negotiations about a free trade zone ranging from Alaska to Tierra del Fuegos. It did not fail as spectacular as the most recent Cancun talks about a free trade zone.  As a provisional measure, the United States and Brazil excluded controversial issues like agricultural subsidies and services....  And all this even though the Latin American countries have a serious negotiating problem: wealthy Argentina does not serve its debt. Crude oil country Venezuela is going down in political confrontation, and in Bolivia, a civil war could be prevented at the last moment.  The only beacon of hope seems to be Brazil's President Lula.  But many countries do not see Brazil's leading role with benevolence.  Chile and Mexico, for instance, are disappointed.  There is still a bumpy road to go before the FTAA agreement can be signed in 2005, and this road can still be dangerous for Brazil, too."


"An Agreement Not Worth The Paper It's Written On"


Right-of-center Lausitzer Rundschau of Cottbus stated (11/22): "What a signal! As far as the economy is concerned, the United States has now forged a coalition of the willing.  Together with 33 other countries the largest free trade zone has now been sealed.  Will everything now improve after the failure of the World Trade Conference in September?  No, by no means.  The agreement is not worth the paper on which it was written.  If all countries are still allowed to build protective zones in all sectors they consider sensitive, this will perhaps be a compromise, but certainly not free trade.  This is not bad as such, since all forms of free trade, which the United States is thinking of, does not resolve one of the global problems, but only cements economic dependency."


"Many Countries Following The U.S. And Moving Away From Free Trade"


Thomas Fischerman commented in Hamburg's influential, centrist Die Zeit (11/20): "In fact, very little is likely to emerge from Miami....  For decades, the United States was one of the most zealous advocates of...parity of treatment of all countries in matters of trade, and one of the most fervent opponents of regional special regulations and individual agreements.  But now this realization seems to have been forgotten.   Never before have the fundamental economic principles of the multilateral global trading system been so rapidly undermined as during the past few years....   Bilateral negotiations make it easier for the United States to ensure that their own interests prevail, by cheerfully impose trading conditions on their negotiating partners that would never have had a chance within the WTO....  The loser in all this is the core economic principle that trading nations' prosperity is unequivocally enhanced by uniformity of trade barriers (or else none at all).  So trade diplomats have fraught days ahead of them in Miami--and uncertain ones, if the global economy is soon to recover."


SPAIN: "American Trade"


Centrist La Vanguardia observed (11/22): "The moderate optimism at the close of the meeting between trade ministers in Miami last Thursday is consoling after the failure of the WTO meeting last September in Cancun....  Washington will agree to negotiate on agricultural subsidies only if it obtains compensation in other areas (investments, services, government tenders, intellectual property and brand protection).  The experience of Mexico carries weight in favor of the agreement because, with good and bad considered, the free trade agreement uniting it with the U.S. and Canada has contributed to the country's stability."




THAILAND:  "U.S. Backs Down In Miami To Avoid Another Cancun"


Walden Bello commented in top-circulation, moderately conservative, English language Bangkok Post (11/25): “Washington has tried to paint the meeting of ministers of the Free Trade of the Americas in Miami last week as a success, but this was far from the case.  The declaration issuing from the ministers meeting, which was held amidst massive street protests, clearly retreated from the original FTAA vision....  The Miami outcome is being interpreted by some observers as a victory for Brazil, which has emerged as Washington’s main antagonist in global economic forum....  Recent developments highlight Washington’s failure to realize the implications of developments in its ‘backyard’ as it has focused almost obsessively on the Middle East...  While it continued to sing the praises of free market policies, these policies were creating economic stagnation, more poverty, and more inequality throughout the region, resulting in the electoral or extra-electoral ouster of pro-market governments in Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, and Bolivia.  While Washington went after Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, perhaps more effective challenges to its hegemony emerged in the persons of the democratically elected Lula in Brazil and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.”##

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