Free Trade Area of the Americas

The Free Trade Area of the Americas logo

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA; Spanish: Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas, ALCA; French: Zone de libre-échange des Amériques, ZLÉA; Portuguese: Área de Livre Comércio das Américas, ALCA; Dutch: Vrijhandelszone van Amerika) was a proposed agreement to eliminate or reduce the trade barriers among all countries in the Americas, excluding Cuba.


In the latest round of negotiations, trade ministers from 34 countries met in Miami, Florida, in the United States, in November 2003 to discuss the proposal.[1] The proposed agreement was an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Opposing the proposal were Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Dominica, and Nicaragua (all of which entered the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas in response), and Mercosur member states. Discussions have faltered over similar points as the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks; developed nations seek expanded trade in services and increased intellectual property rights, while less developed nations seek an end to agricultural subsidies and free trade in agricultural goods. Similar to the WTO talks, Brazil has taken a leadership role among the less developed nations, while the United States has taken a similar role for the developed nations.


Free Trade Area of the Americas began with the Summit of the Americas in Miami, Florida, on December 11, 1994, but the FTAA came to public attention during the Quebec City Summit of the Americas, held in Canada in 2001, a meeting targeted by massive anti-corporatization and anti-globalization protests. The Miami negotiations in 2003 met similar protests, though perhaps not as large.


In previous negotiations, the United States had pushed for a single comprehensive agreement to reduce trade barriers for goods, while increasing intellectual property protection. Specific intellectual property protections could include Digital Millennium Copyright Act-style copyright protections similar to the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Another protection would likely restrict the reimportation or cross-importation of pharmaceuticals, similar to the proposed agreement between the United States and Canada. Brazil proposed a three-track approach that calls for a series of bilateral agreements to reduce specific tariffs on goods, a hemispheric pact on rules of origin, and a dispute resolution process; Brazil proposed to omit the more controversial issues from the FTAA, leaving them to the WTO.

The location of the FTAA Secretariat was to have been determined in 2005. The contending cities are: Atlanta, Chicago, Galveston, Houston, San Juan, and Miami in the United States; Cancún and Puebla in Mexico; Panama City, Panama; and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. city of Colorado Springs also submitted its candidacy in the early days but subsequently withdrew.[2] Miami, Panama City and Puebla served successively as interim secretariat headquarters during the negotiation process.

The last summit was held at Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November 2005, but no agreement on FTAA was reached. Of the 34 countries present at the negotiations, 26 pledged to meet again in 2006 to resume negotiations, but no such meeting took place. The failure of the Mar del Plata summit to establish a comprehensive FTAA agenda augured poorly.

Current status

The FTAA missed the targeted deadline of 2005, which followed the stalling of useful negotiations of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 2005.[3] Over the next few years, some governments, most notably the United States, not wanting to lose any chance of hemispheric trade expansion moved in the direction of establishing a series of bilateral trade deals. The leaders however, planned further discussions at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2012.[4][5]


The following countries are in the plans of the Free Trade Area of the Americas:[6]

Current support and opposition

A vocal critic of the FTAA was Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who has described it as an "annexation plan" and a "tool of imperialism" for the exploitation of Latin America.[7] As a counterproposal to this initiative, Chávez promoted the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, ALBA), based mostly on the model of the Eurasian Economic Community, which makes emphasis on energy and infrastructure agreements that are gradually extended to other areas finally to include the total economic, political and military integration of the member states.[7] Also, Evo Morales of Bolivia has referred to the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas, as "an agreement to legalize the colonization of the Americas".[8]

On the other hand, the then presidents of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Argentina, Néstor Kirchner, have stated that they do not oppose the FTAA but they do demand that the agreement provide for the elimination of U.S. agriculture subsidies, the provision of effective access to foreign markets and further consideration towards the needs and sensibilities of its members.[9]

One of the most contentious issues of the treaty proposed by the United States is with concerns to patents and copyrights. Critics claim that if the measures proposed by the United States were implemented and applied this would reduce scientific research in Latin America. On the left-wing Council of Canadians web site, Barlow wrote: "This agreement sets enforceable global rules on patents, copyrights and trademark. It has gone far beyond its initial scope of protecting original inventions or cultural products and now permits the practice of patenting plants and animal forms as well as seeds. It promotes the private rights of corporations over local communities and their genetic heritage and traditional medicines".[10]

On the weekend of April 20, 2001, the 3rd Summit of the Americas was a summit held in Quebec City, Canada. This international meeting was a round of negotiations regarding a proposed FTAA.


There are currently 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere, stretching from Canada to Chile that still have the FTAA as a long term goal.[11] The Implementation of a full multilateral FTAA between all parties could be made possible by enlargement of existing agreements. North America, with the exception of Cuba and Haiti (which has participated in economic integration with the Caricom since 2002)[12][13] has come close to setting up a subcontinental free trade area. At this point Agreements within the Area of the Americas include:

Previous agreements

Current agreements

Proposed agreements

Active negotiations
Negotiations on hold

Security pacts

See also


  1. "ALCA - FTAA - ZLEA - Ministerial Declaration - Miami 2003". Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  2. "ALCA - FTAA - ZLEA - Candidate Cities for the Permanent Site of the FTAA Secretariat". Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  3. "About AFSC | American Friends Service Committee". Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  4. "ALCA - FTAA - ZLEA - Links to FTAA Countries". Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  5. 1 2 "Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA)". Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  6. "An Interview with Evo Morales (12/08/03)". 2005-10-16. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  7. Gill, Nathan. "April 2008". Southern Affairs. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  8. "Council of Canadians: Campaigns: Trade and Investment: Publications: The Free Trade Area of the Americas by Maude Barlow". Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  9. "Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA)". 1997-05-16. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  10. "Haiti". Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  11. Maroday, Patricia (15 August 2014). "Infographic: The Ultimate Map Of Tax Free Zones In Latin America". Mercatrade. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  12. Archived May 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. Archived May 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Archived April 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. "Caricom And Nafta". Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  16. "Brazil: More Power to Quilombos". 2004-08-25. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  17. Goodman, Joshua (2008-12-15). "Bush Excluded by Latin Summit as China, Russia Loom (Update1)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
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