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FTAA: Deepening of the opening and annexation to the US

FTAA: Deepening of the opening and annexation to the US


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By Enrique Daza Gamba

This year has entered a crucial stage where definitive decisions will be made, since the member countries delivered on January 15, 2003 their proposals for market liberalization in five fundamental areas, namely: industrial goods, agriculture, services, government purchases and foreign direct investment.

The context of the negotiations that are leading to the creation of the Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas, FTAA, and its tremendous and negative impact on Colombian society, are presented in this article, which introduces the subject and warns about the serious consequences of the projected agreement. Plan B of the Uribe Vélez government, negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States is even more damaging. Both are plotted in secret, undemocratic, with their backs to those concerned, and will have lasting and explosive consequences. Demarcation

In secret, in eagerness and under pressure

Very few people know the meaning of the acronym FTAA and even less that this Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas has been under negotiation for several years and that, without the negotiations having concluded, the Uribe government is trying to reach an agreement with the United States. Free trade agreement similar to the one that this power signed with Chile in December last year.

The initiative of an agreement of this type was raised by Uribe Vélez on his first trip to the United States at the end of September last year. These agreements are being negotiated within the parameters established in the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, signed in 1994 and which brings together Canada, Mexico and the United States, and the same direction is currently being negotiated by the United States. with five of the seven Central American countries, with a view to signing it at the end of 2003.

The reason for the ignorance of the issue by Colombian opinion is clear: the government has been participating in the negotiations practically secretly. The Colombian Parliament, who must finally approve the agreement, does not have any monitoring or surveillance mechanism. The few industrialists who are aware of the process complain that the government does not take them into account; The positions that Colombia takes to the negotiations are only known later and partially and the information that the media transmits is strongly biased in favor of the treaty. Proof of the lack of information is that 6 years after the beginning of the process, José Miguel Carrillo, president of Acopi and of the Latin American Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises, indicated as a result of the Quito meeting in October 2002: "The FTAA negotiations have not taken into account small and medium-sized enterprises, despite the fact that they generate 90% of employment "(Portfolio, October 30, 2002) and the Advisory Council, a group of entrepreneurs handpicked by the government and which was created with Decree 246 of February 2, 2002, in November 2002 it had only been summoned to one meeting.

Meanwhile, at the seventh business meeting on the FTAA held in Quito in October 2002, Colombian businessmen repeatedly stated that they had not been consulted or taken into account and that the negotiations were excessively reserved.

The national government contracted 10 studies with Colombian universities, which have already been completed but have not been made known to the opinion, maintaining a confidential nature, like many other substantive aspects of the negotiations. These studies, instead of stimulating debate, have constituted a kind of bribery so that the academic world does not promote the critical examination of negotiations, a debate that stands out largely for its absence in university magazines and in the cloisters. in other countries it has occupied the academic field for several years. The few –although significant– events held by non-governmental organizations, the popular movement and others have not had the required impact, their attendees are few and far between, and the official version of the matter has so far been overwhelmingly imposed.

The agreement tries to group the whole of America into a single free trade area, incorporating 34 countries with 800 million people –13.4% of the world's population–, 500 million of them in Latin America –half in poverty. (income less than 2 dollars a day); a gross product close to 11 trillion dollars and that means 38% of world product; 23% of world exports of goods and 25.3% of international trade in services.

Logically its economic strength lies in the fact that within it there are strong economies such as Brazil, the United States and Canada, which together represent 87.7% of the production of this bloc (although the United States alone represents 71% ) and that it is a region with rapid growth for North American exports and investments, more than for the real weight of the rest of the national economies, which is not very significant worldwide.

Although it is claimed that it would be the largest economic bloc in the world, Europe –including its eastern zone– and any Asian market that takes China into account could have a similar size since they would include populations with higher levels of development, greater consumption capacity and a more balanced economic growth. The importance of these other regions is what explains why the FTAA is just one more piece in the American chess game for perpetuating its hegemony. Its interest in the Chinese market, in Central Asian oil, in business in the Pacific, in control of Europe, for example, are topics of greater interest and profitability for the northern power, which does not imply that it neglects its backyard.

The agreement is being negotiated rapidly: from the preparatory phase that began in Miami in 1994, the negotiations began formally in 1998 and it is expected that they will be concluded in 2005. This year has entered a crucial stage where definitive decisions will be made, since the member countries delivered on January 15, 2003 their proposals for market liberalization in five fundamental areas, namely: industrial goods, agriculture, services, government purchases and foreign direct investment, proposals that could be modified in April.

This speed in the negotiations contrasts with the speed with which other integration processes have been carried out: it took Europe more than 30 years to consolidate the European Community and the countries of the Pacific basin 10 years ago are negotiating treaties that will barely allow a partial trade liberalization in 2010 and total in 2020. The acceleration of the process shows, at the same time as the enormous pressure from the United States, the limited negotiating capacity of Latin America, in which only Brazil has made some efforts to assert its interests.

The United States arrives at each negotiation with an army of experts financed by the multinationals, while the other countries arrive divided, with insecure positions, without internal consensus, without knowing what they should defend and with the bitter certainty that they will surrender to the voracity of the free market. entire branches of a production that they have failed to defend in the last 12 years of neoliberalism.

The negotiations have a well-defined schedule and agenda established in 3 presidential summits, 7 ministerial summits, 11 summits of the Trade Negotiations Committee led by the vice ministers of economy, and innumerable meetings of the working groups that have allowed a second one to exist. version of a draft treaty. The agenda is broad and does not refer exclusively to commercial aspects. Capital flows, guarantees for foreign investment, mechanisms for the resolution of disputes, intellectual property and state purchases occupy a central role and are equal or more important than commercial aspects, since the reduction and reduction of tariffs In the past decade, the path of commercial liberation has already advanced and the Latin American countries were flooded with North American merchandise, both industrial and agricultural products, which left agriculture and industry in ruin throughout the continent.

The presidential summits have included many additional aspects in the legal, educational, institutional, military, educational fields, etc., with calls to adhere to international agreements in various matters. However, while the United States - showing extreme unilateralism - has the luxury of not signing agreements, among many others, such as the Kyoto protocol, the prohibitions on the use of antipersonnel mines, the acceptance of the International Criminal Court, the adoption of multiple agreements of the International Labor Organization, which that power prides itself on ignoring due to "national security" considerations, although the Summits of the Americas have recommended abiding by. The elimination of subsidies and tariffs has also been stipulated, but at the same time the United States increased subsidies to agriculture and raised protection on products such as steel, to the point that the same World Trade Organization, WTO, since 1997 has condemned said power four times to subsidize its exports.

During the first part of the negotiations, it was agreed that the Latin American countries would participate in the process through their subregional blocks and this idea was maintained until last year, but this possibility has already exploded into a thousand pieces by virtue of the accelerated signing of an agreement of bilateral free trade between Chile and the United States last December, the negotiations between the United States and Central America in the same direction, the internal disputes in the Andean Community, the crisis in Argentina and the discrepancies of the governments of Lula and Chávez with the process . In such a way, while the negotiations continue, what is remaining is a race for the signing of bilateral agreements, towards which Colombia has already enlisted in order - according to Uribe Vélez - not to "be last in line."

Many of the definitions that are tried to be formalized in the FTAA go beyond what is stipulated in the treaties that gave rise to the WTO and reflect the North American interest to wrest from Latin American nations what they could not obtain from the other countries of the world that they defended with greater vehemence their interests. A typical case of this is the investment rules, whose attempt to apply them to Europe a few years ago sparked scandals that led to a massive European rejection of what was then called the Multilateral Investment Agreement, MAI, which granted all advantages to multinationals to the detriment of the rights of nation states. The FTAA reissues these stipulations with even more guarantees for foreign investors. Also the definitions adopted in the sense of seeking "macroeconomic stability" imply strict Latin American compliance with the recessive dictates of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, since the requirements of having a balanced budget and a minimum fiscal deficit - traditional recipes of that entity - They are not applied in the United States, a country that in the face of the recent recession and the invasion of Iraq has shot up its own deficit.

Parallel to the ministerial summits, seven business summits have been held to supposedly make recommendations to the negotiators. However, the latter, crammed with representatives of multinationals, do not allow the voice of national businessmen to be heard, who –both those in agriculture and the manufacturing industry– complain that governments do not take them into account, although the businessmen themselves they lack detailed studies on the possible impacts of the FTAA in their respective sectors. In Colombia, for example, only a few analyzes have been carried out and, already well advanced in the process, industrialists find themselves defenseless in the face of superior forces that they consider unapproachable, reducing their attitude - in the best of cases - to prevent the damage from happening They are so serious and not so fast, many wanting to obtain advantages at the expense of other sectors and other countries with the policy of 'for himself who can'. The importance of the matter is such that despite the dramatic results of the economic opening in the early 1990s, an editorial in Portafolio on November 6, 2002 affirms that these agreements will have "more important consequences than the opening itself."

Consolidate influence and take Europe out of the game

In the last twenty years, six major imbalances have come together in Latin America: gigantic external indebtedness, export specialization in basic products, unequal exchange, deterioration of the standard of living, deindustrialization and loss of food self-sufficiency. These evils have been the product of the region's intimate relationship with the United States in the heat of so-called 'globalization', and it is easy to detect that its worsening has paralleled the increase in dependence on that power, in compliance with the economic guidelines promoted since there already the radicalization of the processes of opening, privatization, deregulation and reduction of the attributions and resources of the State. At the same time, the political and social crisis has spread in the region, poverty is rampant and political crises have plagued most of the countries.

In the 1990s, the US renewed its commercial and economic offensive towards Latin America. At the end of the decade it controlled more than 50% of its total imports and exports, increasing its political and military influence. However, there is still an important European economic presence in some continental areas. In this sense, the FTAA negotiations are part of the North American attempt to gain advantages and isolate its competitors from other latitudes. A demonstrative case was Mexico, where Europe lost its share in foreign trade due to NAFTA. However, the old continent has entrenched itself to some extent in Mercosur and has also promoted trade agreements with Mexico and Chile. Argentina, Mexico and Brazil absorb more than 60% of European sales to the region and for Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Panama and Peru, Europe was, in the second half of the 90s, the main export market. The old continent, for its part, receives a quarter of Mercosur exports, but Latin America has a marginal commercial interest for Europe since it only absorbs 2.1% of European exports and between 1990 and 1996 the total of Latin American exports there it went from 24% to 14% of total exports, while those directed to the United States increased from 38% to 49%. European Foreign Direct Investment was mainly concentrated in Argentina and Brazil, having to do mainly with the privatization of services such as telecommunications and energy, but in recent years it has been directed to the automotive sector in Mercosur.

Between 1990 and 1997 in Latin America there were 900 privatizations for more than 100,000 million dollars, being the region that has privatized the most in the world, a process that has occurred in three waves: the first affected commercial companies, the second affected the infrastructure and some services, and the current one, framed in the FTAA, includes social sectors such as pension funds, health and education. In these privatization processes, there was a veiled struggle between the powers and Europe - led by Spain - got a good cut. It was precisely in that decade that the social crisis became general in such a way that at the end of the decade and according to ECLAC data, 4 out of 10 Latin Americans were poor and 3 were about to be, secondary education only reached one of Every two young people, out of every 10 jobs created, 7 were in the informal sector and the average economic growth was the lowest of the century (Portafolio, May 10, 2002).

Before the 1990s –between 1950 and 1990–, Latin America had lost its share in the United States' foreign trade, going from having 28% of exports and 35% of imports from that country in 1950 to 14% of exports. exports and 13% of imports, but between 1985 and 1994, North American exports to the region went from 31 billion to 93 billion. In any case, there has been a consensus among recent North American administrations that the region with the fastest growth for North American foreign trade is Latin America and that by 2010 it will surpass Europe and Japan in sales of North American goods and services.

Despite the fact that the US bases its development on its own domestic market since foreign trade in relation to its Gross Domestic Product has not exceeded 12%, in recent times, and as a response to its crisis, exports are more important than ever for the North American economy: "since 1993, more than a third of the economic growth has been due to exports and the jobs related to them grew 1.7 million; while 11.5 million jobs depended on exports. US sales abroad (Charlene Barshefsky, statements before the US Senate, Sept. 17, 1997).

Due to the size of their market, Argentina and Brazil play a key role in the FTAA negotiations, and in 1999 Brazil was the twelfth North American client and sold more than China (Richard Fisher, Forum on trade relations between the USA and Brazil, April 18). April 2000). Of the 500 largest North American companies listed by Fortune, 420 operate in Brazil, while in Colombia there are no more than 180 North American companies, many of which are not among the largest and although we have the fourth largest population in America, we represent only 0.77 % of regional GDP. We also represent just 1% of US GDP, and our economy is 15 times smaller than New York City's.

In many respects, Brazil's export structure is not complementary but competitive with that of the United States, such as steel, orange juice, soybeans and automobiles. Although the Latin American market most desired by the United States is the Brazilian, it has already made significant inroads there, since in the 1994/97 period, for example, Rio de Janeiro exports to the United States grew just 5.2%, while imports from that country they increased 116.52%. In this way, it could be affirmed that although in the commercial field the United States has much to gain by seizing the Mercosur market, it is in investments where it has the most to reap in the entire region as a result of the implementation of the FTAA or free bilateral agreements. Commerce.

Division and marked cards

North American influence has led Latin America to dispersion and crisis. Argentina went bankrupt and was not ‘helped’ by the United States, Ecuador became dollarized after a deep institutional crisis and the new government of Lucio Gutiérrez renewed the leading sectors but not the policies that produced the hecatomb; in Peru, the Fujimori government, champion of North American policies, fell amid the deepest corruption; in Venezuela, Chávez distances himself from the policies recommended by international credit organizations and remains, despite permanent US attempts to destabilize him; in Paraguay and Uruguay, the governments lose legitimacy and the triumphs of the opposition are expected; the Bolivian people rise up in rebellion; In Brazil, a recognized adversary of the FTAA and at the same time an opponent of the pro-American government of Cardozo, the trade unionist Ignacio da Silva 'Lula', won the presidency, and docile Colombia faces its worst economic crisis and the erosion of the authoritarian government of Uribe Vélez, who is He insists on applying the neoliberal recipes that led the region to disaster.

Mercosur, initially paralyzed by the crisis in Brazil and later by that of Argentina, tries to take a new breath led by Lula. The Andean Community has made unsuccessful efforts to establish a common external tariff and to a certain extent these trends towards dispersion are logical given that the predominance of free market policies and the loss of economic capacity of the States, as well as the North American interference they have become stepping stones for integration processes. Under these conditions, it becomes very difficult to negotiate en bloc with the United States, which - taking advantage of the situation - promotes bilateral agreements that further diminish the negotiating capacity of the area and imply the total imposition of its policies.

Negotiations of free trade agreements by the United States had suffered delays because Congress had not granted the president powers to negotiate "on the fast track" –before Fast Track and now TPA– which grants the executive gringo the power to negotiate treaties that are submitted en bloc to the North American Congress, which cannot make amendments but only approve or reject them. This fast track was granted in December 2001 but the US Congress filled it with conditions in multiple paragraphs, establishing limitations on the Executive to negotiate its countervailing duty mechanisms and antidumping measures with which they protect their production. The same decision that approved it also prevented the elimination of agricultural subsidies and - reducing the possibilities of granting preferences in the matter of textile exports and in numerous products considered 'sensitive' - forced the president to negotiate with the congressional committees before signing. treated in various products, among which are some that would affect Colombian exports such as meat, legumes, sugar, tobacco, cotton, flowers among 300 others (Portfolio, January 28, 2002, Manuel José Cárdenas).

To this must be added that it has been fully demonstrated that the United States exports strategic agricultural products such as corn, soybeans, cotton, wheat and rice well below its own production costs (La Jornada, February 10, 2002). Thus, Latin America faces a dirty game, with cards marked, at a disadvantage, intervened, disunited or mired in instability.

The ATPA Blackmail

A large part of the businessmen's expectations have revolved around the preferences that will be granted in the ATPDEA until 2006, when the FTAA must enter into force. Expectations are based on the fact that these Andean Regional Preferences, which were already granted, a little more restricted in the ATPA –which lasted 10 years– apparently benefited exports and with them employment. Now the new preferences that are extended to other products, would contain a much more favorable potential. However, as they are temporary preferences granted unilaterally and at the discretion of the United States, businessmen who export fear that if the FTAA is not approved, these advantages would be lost and, if approved, they would be enshrined in a treaty that would establish them permanently.

According to the former Minister of Foreign Trade, Marta Lucía Ramírez (Portfolio January 25, 2002) "while in 1992 exports under this preferential system were 443 million dollars in 8 years they increased to 849 million dollars" and in terms of employment it would have gone from "77,483 jobs in 1992 to approximately 122,296 jobs in 2001." This means that 44,813 new jobs would have been obtained in almost 10 years, which compares disadvantageously with the thousands of jobs that have been lost with the economic opening and has practically no impact on unemployment that is around 3 million people and their The contribution to the government plan to generate 2 million jobs in the four-year period would be negligible.

The effect of ATPA was limited by more than 50% to the production of flowers and pigments; In the case of flowers, it is known that North American capital has been taking over most of the companies, with which North American investors are largely exporting to their own country, using unskilled labor - female and female. disorganized– and in addition, in the United States, 95% of the retail price remains (Portfolio, May 24, 2002).

On the other hand, judicious analysts (Jorge Alberto Velásquez, Portfolio May 20, 2002) have shown that the growth of trade between the Andean region and the United States (5.96%) has increased less than the growth of trade of the United States with the world (7.01%) and less than the average growth of trade in Latin America and the Caribbean of 10.8% per year and that while in 2000 the exports covered by the ATPA reached 900 million dollars, those directed to Venezuela that same year they reached 1500 million dollars, having a better composition since they include products with greater added value.

The new preferences established in the ATPDEA contain rigorous conditions that seek to shape the entire economic development of the country, condition its international policy and force it to accept the FTAA. Among them are that Colombia cannot adopt a communist system of government, that it cannot nationalize, expropriate, impose taxes or other obligations on investors, nationalize property, or take control of US companies. In addition, it stipulates that the Colombian government must recognize and act in good faith before the rulings of international courts, that it cannot enjoy special preferences or treatment by another country or bloc that affects US interests, that it cannot violate the rights of intellectual property and that it must participate in the process leading to the FTAA and in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking in line with the strategies determined by Washington.

Given the seriousness of the crisis, the countries have been sold the idea that the salvation for production is access to the North American market. That is why for many entrepreneurs this is the appeal of the FTAA, which has meant definitively renouncing the expansion of the country's internal market and even the strengthening of the subregional market, the fastest growing market in the past decade. The case of Colombia demonstrates this, given that while sales of higher value-added products to Venezuela and Ecuador had rapid growth; commodity exports to the United States grew less. Meanwhile, the domestic market narrowed with the deterioration of the standard of living, the decrease in real wages, the import of food, the reduction of the economic activity of the State, the reduction of its number of employees and industrial bankruptcy. This situation, caused by the policy of openness, is considered by the government as an objective fact product of immutable economic laws, which would indicate that the only way to grow is by exporting.

The media and the government have been changing their position depending on the changes in the growth of the North American economy, as if this meant an automatic increase in our exports to that country.

We cannot compete even in our domestic market

After twelve years of an opening that was supposed to make our economy competitive, Colombia exhibits the worst indicators of competitiveness. In a meeting held in March 2002 in Santa Marta, it was revealed that in technological matters we rank 56 out of 75 countries (73% of the countries surpass us), in public institutions we rank 57 and in macroeconomic environment we rank 66. In the VII Meeting on Competitiveness held in October 2002, it was revealed that despite the fact that Colombia is the fifth largest economy in the Americas, it ranks 12th in competitiveness. A month later, at a business competitiveness meeting called "FTAA Challenges and Opportunities", there were increases in exports of auto parts, meat and dairy products, but hopes were placed on the export of medicinal plants, aromatic herbs and essential oils, products organic (coffee, mango, banana, palm hearts, African palm) and from the "vallenata culture". At this same meeting, 7 out of 10 of the 134 participating businessmen indicated that they had regular or poor knowledge of the FTAA negotiations. And it was revealed that in 2001 only 14% of Colombian exports were made under the ATPA, despite being in force since 1992 and including around 5,600 products, equivalent to 80% of the Colombian tariff universe.

The real benefits of the ATPDEA are very specific and, above all, promote the manufacture of clothing with North American fabrics and other products carefully chosen so that they do not affect the interests of American companies. Even products that could have some importance were excluded, such as rum, brandy, canned tuna and various varieties of textiles and footwear. An illustrative case of the vain illusions that they want to create with the ATPDEA were the statements of the North American ambassador on the occasion of the recent shoe fair that was held at the beginning of the year in Corferias, who stated that the footwear sector with these preferences It could get to export 120 million dollars, a figure without real support, for a sector that even at its best did not export 100 million dollars and is now decimated by openness, isolated from the financial sector, harassed by late payments and with some suppliers of raw materials that have reduced their operations by 70% and that are dedicated to exporting semi-processed leather, reducing the supply of finished leather for footwear and leather goods manufacturers. This footwear sector has been reduced by 60% and its most prestigious factories have disappeared or are in serious difficulties, such as Calzado La Corona, which had been in the market for more than 100 years.

As a result of the definition that Bush had to take on Colombia's eligibility to be part of the new preferences, the government was again pressured to pay TermoRio $ 61 million, which is in addition to the payments that Pastrana made to Nortel for 150 billion pesos and also suffered pressure from multinational pharmaceutical companies against the production of generics by Colombian companies. On the other hand, the fact that some new exports have tariff-free access to the North American market does not mean that they will be able to compete in that market, in which they have to elbow their way, competing with countries in which labor is cheaper and have better infrastructure. .

In reality, Colombian exports suffer from structural deficiencies. As regards oil, the abandonment of the exploration policy is compounded by the delivery to foreign capital of profitable businesses. As a result of this situation, the country may stop being an exporter or make its production depend on the ups and downs of the world oil market, which aspires to be fully managed by the United States with its invasion of Iraq. Exports to Venezuela, the main destination for non-traditional ones, decreased due to the combined effect of the economic crisis and the politics of the neighboring country. Flowers, largely benefited from North American preferences, are in low demand due to the North American crisis and the elimination of preferences in Europe; the price of coffee has stagnated at extremely low levels; Coal exports, a material coveted for its low sulfur content and great caloric power, have decreased in volume and price, and despite the fact that there is talk of a new oil bonanza, it is in the hands of the private sector, as is nickel . Such items occupy a substantial part of Colombian exports, being products whose demand decreases with the world economic crisis and whose value has deteriorated. As a result of the liberalization policies, Colombia depends to a large extent on the North American market: the US is our main commercial partner and the main investor. In 2000, 50% of our sales and 40% of our purchases were with the United States and a deficit of $ 2.2 billion was obtained.

At a CAF forum held in Bolivia in July 2002, the Andean region's lack of competitiveness was repeated for the umpteenth time, a lack of competitiveness that according to analysts at the World Economic Forum (PTF, July 24, 2002) is due to "macroeconomic disorder, weak public institutions, rampant corruption, scant and poor infrastructure, quantitative and qualitative deficits in education, difficult and expensive access to credit, obstacles to trade, low capacity for innovation and technological adaptation, low level of savings, etc. "

Flagship companies that would be able to compete boast of their pyrrhic achievements. Bavaria, for example, affirms that in the future it could "reach levels of competition with international standards" and Coltejer prides itself on having a salesperson that travels through Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina (Portafolio, November 18, 2002). Colombia, with apparel exports that do not even reach 5% of those from Central America to the United States, is embarking on the vain intention of renouncing the expansion of its domestic market to scratch a larger portion of the North American market, which by 2005 the Asian textile exports.

The misadventures of the Andean Community

It has been said that Colombia has defended the negotiation of the FTAA through the Bloque de la Comunidad Andina, CAN. But this has not been true, because in addition to the lack of political will, the internal discrepancies of the countries and between them have made it practically impossible. Despite the fact that for more than 30 years there has been talk of the union of the Andean countries, in reality the demands of exceptional treatment, the protection that each country grants to certain sectors of its economy, political differences, among other factors, have made it difficult this integration. Now, when it comes to a broader and deeper integration within the FTAA, the Andean countries have been pressured to try to formalize at full speed what they have not done in 30 years and to negotiate with the United States in inferior conditions, facilities and advantages that they did not grant to their brother countries and also sell their citizens the idea that yesterday it was good to protect agriculture or industrial sectors in competition with Peru or Venezuela, but that today it is necessary to unprotect all sectors before States United. The presidents of the CAN countries met in Lima on November 23, 2001 and then on January 30, 2002 in Santa Cruz, amid threats from Ecuador to withdraw, Colombian assertions that the integration process had lost credibility, safeguards of several countries to protect sensitive sectors, non-compliance with the rulings of the Andean Court of Justice and adoption of protectionist para-tariff measures. Peru and Bolivia also postponed the adoption of the Common External Tariff, AEC.

At that meeting in Santa Cruz, it was defined that the Common External Tariff would come into effect in December 2003 (although it actually already existed since 1995, but only Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela complied with it) and a tariff of 0.5 would be in force as of 2004. 10 and 20%, and for agricultural products a rebate since December 2005. Peru, for its part, promised to join, since it had abstained from participating. In 2002 Venezuela continued to place restrictions on imports from Colombia: products such as potatoes, eggs and chickens, oilseeds, meat and livestock have suffered different types of restrictions, from high tariffs to quotas or the absence of permits. A Common External Tariff was also agreed on October 15, 2002, which was adopted on 62% of the tariff items, but in the same month Peru and Ecuador expressed their opposition to the free zones and the Vallejo Plan of Colombia.

The issue of the tariffs from which negotiations must begin, constituted a slap in the face from the Uribe government to the Andean countries. After having reached an agreement to present the maximum tariffs allowed by the WTO as a basis for negotiation and in the face of North American pressure that threatened to suppress Andean preferences, Colombia backed down. This decision, taken in October, was rejected by 92 senators and 144 representatives without the government even deigning to give an explanation to Parliament. Minister Cano - on the defensive - pointed out that he had a plan B that implied modifying the above before April 15 or excluding some sensitive products from the negotiations, which are benefited in the United States with subsidies, being that - as is the case of milk - high tariffs have not meant effective protection. This Plan B was quickly aborted when a few months later the Colombian government, instead of conditioning the reduction in tariffs on the dismantling of the gringo subsidies, promised to negotiate the tariffs and at the same time "evaluate" the evolution of the subsidies issue, thereby which was once again like a splinter before the Andean countries by not demanding the removal of subsidies as a condition for lowering tariffs. Finally, on February 15, 2003, an agreement was only reached on tax relief offers for 42.6% of industrial and agricultural products.

The government's approach to the possibility of an Andean bloc was crudely exposed by Rudolf Hommes, who, referring to the need to prioritize bilateral negotiations with the US and the ATPA, pointed out that this opportunity "we are putting aside to dance joropos and marineras with friends who are not good matches and do not even know how to dance "(Portfolio, October 29, 2002).

Despite the prevailing belief that the US would negotiate in blocs until the end of last year, the reality that prevails is that Uribe Vélez is oriented towards the rapid signing of a bilateral agreement with the United States, which means - still more than the FTAA - annex ourselves to the North American economy and open ourselves totally to the interference of that power. It also implies perpetuating and deepening current inequalities with the United States, especially technological disparities, unequal exchange, increased indebtedness, deterioration in income distribution, concentration of wealth, and trade deficit.

What we will lose

Due to its importance for food self-sufficiency, poverty and even peace, one of the critical issues of the FTAA is agriculture. The sector in Colombia was practically wiped out with the economic opening. Crops that were once important sources of employment virtually disappeared, such as cotton, which went from more than 260,000 hectares to less than 50,000 today, figures almost identical to those of sorghum and soybean crops, which fell more than 60%. Food imports increased by more than 500% and exports, which in 1991 amounted to 2.7 billion dollars, reached just 2.8 billion dollars in 2001. In the last ten years 800,000 hectares of the agricultural frontier were lost, unemployment increased by 400,000 people, imports went from 700,000 to 7 million tons and poverty covers 82% of the rural population. In the midst of this crisis, the Colombian government dared to establish negotiation criteria that did not even make known to the farmers and that mean the lack of protection of agriculture and its specialization in tropical crops. According to calculations by José Leibovich, the average tariff for agricultural products is 68% (Portfolio, November 8, 2002), which would drop to 0% in a very few years, making sectors such as poultry, meat, dairy disappear , the cereal grower, limiting Colombian production to exotic export crops. In this anti-agricultural policy, the highest government advisor on economic matters, R. Hommes, who invites us to import all the food we consume, and Juan Carlos Villegas, president of ANDI, have agreed.

In November 2002, the National Planning Director, showing the true intentions of the government, "proposed a new development model, based on natural resources as the engine of the economy" (Portfolio, November 20, 2002), which implies returning to the Colombian economy to the times of indigo and cinchona, as in the 19th century, for the sake of a supposed modernization and insertion in international markets. The apologists for the export of basic products, while downplaying all importance to the national production of food and cereals, point out as an exporter example that we must imitate the sales of pineapple by Costa Rica, mangoes from Brazil, grapes from Chile, and limes and lemons from Argentina.

But the effects of the FTAA will not be limited to agriculture: the industry - in the best of cases - will 'maquiladora' a few garments, but in exchange for this the country will suffer an avalanche of foreign merchandise repeating the experience of Mexico, where during the NAFTA went bankrupt, more than 28,000 companies whose export 'success' is due to the fact that 10 of its largest 15 exporting companies are North American. Some large companies will be saved if they join forces, become satellites of multinationals, or simply denationalize.

Regarding foreign investment, the FTAA seeks to privilege the rights of investors over the rights of the States and peoples, surrounding foreign capital with all kinds of tax facilities, making labor and environmental legislation more flexible, and guaranteeing the free repatriation of profits. and the unlimited possibilities of entering and leaving the country without conditions. The legislation should idolize foreign capital, hoping that it will come to promote "development" and transnational corporations will be able to file profitable lawsuits against States that support national companies or establish policies to protect health, education or the environment, areas in which it will govern. as in all free competition.

In terms of intellectual property, the FTAA means ensuring the technological monopoly of multinationals, the channeling of most of the world's investigative resources towards profit, and lack of interest in those areas in which there are no buyers or they have little purchasing power of such that the investigations do not achieve the profitability expected by the capitalists. Patenting living species, new forms of food production and basic medicines seeks to ensure that everyone contributes to the huge profits of multinationals.

Regarding state purchases, it would seek to place on an equal footing those companies that have juicy sources of financing with the weak national companies. In education and health, the aim is to fully open them to foreign capital without granting any advantage to national and state hospitals and universities. In public services, an attempt would be made to extend denationalization in matters such as the provision of drinking water, electricity and telecommunications. In the resolution of controversies, the intention is to eliminate national jurisdiction over disputes with investors and transfer them to supranational "technical" courts. In terms of capital flows, eliminate the state power to direct investment towards sectors of national convenience and prevent control of the depredatory effect of swallow capital. For their part, Colombian professionals will become mere underpaid employees of international advisers and consultants. It will not be possible to speak of an industrializing project for the country. We will have to buy science and technology. The environment will be valued at the price imposed by patents and needs beyond our borders. Our workforce will compete on the low side with places where servility and slavery prevail. Economic and social rights will resign their heads to the rights of capital.

We will lose entire branches of production; We will ratify the loss of food security; Entire areas such as household public services, education and health will be denationalized; our country will become even more a hunting ground for speculative capital; the State will be tied up; we will give up growth by strengthening the domestic market. In short, recolonization, the empire of the market. The reign of barbarism will be consolidated and all this thanks not to a sovereign decision of the country but to an international treaty that strengthens a development model that has already meant a debacle in the twelve years of application of economic openness.-EcoPortal.net

References

  • Pulecio, Jorge R. The FTAA from the perspective of Colombia. Studies on the FTAA, Santiago, November 2002.
  • Mello, Fátima V. Brazil and the FTAA, The State of the debate since Lula's victory,
  • Azocar, Oscar. Chile: The FTA with the United States, winners and losers. December 26, 2002. Rebellion, Economy.
  • Oxfam, Agriculture, Investments and Intellectual Property, three reasons to say no to the FTAA. January 2003.
  • Mosquera Mesa, Ricardo. Globalization & FTAA. National University. 2002.
  • Resolutions and Official Documents of the FTAA. www.micomex.gov.co
  • McCoy Terry. The 2002 Latin American business environment. August 2002, University of Florida.
  • Sela. Dynamics of the external relations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Buenos Aires 1998
  • Documents of the Continental Social Alliance.
  • Duke Marta Alicia. FTAA: Voracity and Hegemony. Documents No. 10, Indepaz. 2002.

* By Enrique Daza GambaDirector of Deslinde and Cedetrabajo

Signed articles are the responsibility of the authors. It may or may not coincide with the concepts or opinions expressed.


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Comments:

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