the FTAA is to bring all-round benefits to Latin American and Caribbean
countries, then it must make specific provision for the smaller countries and
disadvantaged social groups. That was the view advanced by this columnist at a
presentation made in Ottawa last week.
occasion was a Conference on Caribbean and Canadian NGOs Perspectives on the
by A-Dialogue, an organization representing 2 million Canadians
of African descent; and Alternatives, a Canadian NGO Network that organised last
year’s Peoples Summit of the Americas.
years ago at the Davos World Economic Forum, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had
observed that the spread of markets globally was outpacing the ability of
societies to adjust, making the world economy vulnerable to backlash from the
“isms” of the post-cold-war world, including terrorism.
FTAA will create a single market over the American hemisphere, Cuba excepted,
but the countries are of widely differing sizes and levels of development. A
total of 21 countries in the Greater Caribbean each have less than one-fiftieth
of the size and resource endowment of the United States and less than
one-twentieth of the size and resource endowment of Brazil and Canada.
these circumstances, the “equal treatment of unequals” will likely lead to
greater inequality, both between and within countries; in a region already
marked by the widest disparities in income distribution in the developing world.
FTAA should make specific provision for Special and Differential Treatment for
Smaller and Less Developed economies, guaranteeing them longer periods of
adjustment, special exemptions, and safeguards and flexibility in the
application of norms and disciplines. Special assistance is needed to
manufacturing, agriculture and service industries for competitive adjustment and
aim should be to “level up” these economies and avoid a “race to the
bottom” in competing for foreign investment based on low-cost labour.
FTAA should also make financial provisions for the poorer and weaker economies
and the vulnerable social groups, to assist with the modernization of social and
economic infrastructure and to cushion the social impact of trade liberalization.
A model exists in the European Union’s regional development and structural
funds targeted at less-favoured regions, areas with specific handicaps,
vulnerable groups in the society and local and regional authorities. EU
provisions for this amount to EU 213 billion over the 2000-2006 period.
Margarita Declaration adopted at the 3rd ACS Summit in December 2001
calls for the inclusion of Special and Differential Treatment and of a Regional
Development Fund within the FTAA. Determined efforts at negotiation and lobbying
will be needed to bring this about. NGOs and other civil society organizations,
including the private sector, need to join forces with governments in these
the Caribbean Diaspora in North America wants to “help”, it could examine
ways of lobbying the governments of their adopted countries for the inclusion of
such provisions in the FTAA. It could also try to mobilize technical assistance
for regional governments in their negotiations and for businesses in their
marketing and modernization strategies.
the evidence of the Ottawa Conference, Diaspora organizations still have some
way to go in organizing themselves to support the region in its FTAA challenges.
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Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John collins can be read