When trade ministers from the Americas gather for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Ministerial in Miami November 20-21, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and his team of advisors are unlikely to walk away with the agreements they seek. The FTAA is an ambitious undertaking intended to link every country in the Western Hemisphere (except Cuba) through a free-trade agreement covering a broad array of issues.

Proponents argue that the accord would increase trade and economic growth among the participating countries, leading to increased prosperity and strengthened democracy throughout the region. But a large and growing number of citizens organizations and some of the region's governments, particularly Brazil, argue that such an agreement would devastate farmers, working people and the environment, and consolidate the power of transnational corporations.

There is currently very little consensus among the participating countries about either the timing or the scope of the FTAA. The United States, along with 12 other nations (those with which the U.S. either already has or is negotiating bilateral trade deals), is pushing for the completion of an ambitious and far-reaching accord for implementation by 2005. The countries of the MERCOSUR, the South American common market led by Brazil and Argentina, on the other hand, are advocating a scaled-back FTAA. Venezuela and many Caribbean countries have also expressed misgivings about the timing of the negotiations and their scope.

Problems with Current U.S. Policy

· The Bush administration plans to advance its trade agenda not only through the FTAA, but also through sub-regional accords such as the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

· Proposals for an "investor-state" clause in the FTAA would give investors the power to challenge national and local laws.

Expert FTAA Analysis/Key Background Information Available at: www.americaspolicy.org: · The United States and the FTAA: Time to Listen by Kevin P. Gallagher www.americaspolicy.org/commentary/2003/03111ftaa-commentary.html

· The Mexican Farmers' Movement: Exposing the Myths of Free Trade by Laura Carlsen, program director, IRC's Americas Program www.americaspolicy.org/reports/2003/0302farm.html

· U.S.-Mexico Meeting on the Border Environment by Talli Nauman, IRC's Americas Program http://www.americaspolicy.org/citizen-action/series/07-encuentro.html

· MERCOSUR and the FTAA: New Tensions and New Options by Eduardo Gudynas, http://www.americaspolicy.org/columns/gudynas/2003/0311mercosur.html

· Trade and Integration in the Americas" FTAA Regular or FTAA Light? by Eduardo Gudynas http://www.americaspolicy.org/columns/gudynas/2003/0311diet.html

· The Buenos Aires Consensus, http://www.americaspolicy.org/articles/2003/0311consensus.html

· Citizen Groups, Governments, Seek Scaled Back FTAA at Miami Ministerial by Karen Hansen-Kuhn, http://www.americaspolicy.org/briefs/2003/0311ftaa.html

· Sustainability Assessments: Tools for Effective Trade Policy in the Hemisphere, by Kevin P. Gallagher and Hernan Blanco, http://www.americaspolicy.org/briefs/2003/0304sa.html

· Victory in Miami? Focusing Global Justice Efforts Beyond FTAA, by Mark Engler, http://www.fpif.org/papers/miami2003.html

· Challenging Trade Liberalization in the Americas, by Kristin E. Sampson, IRC Americas Program, http://www.americaspolicy.org/citizen-action/series/08-trade.html

Through our two key programs, Global Affairs and Americas Program, the IRC provides independent, well-researched analysis of U.S. foreign policy, rooted in progressive values, with an emphasis on fostering strategic dialogue among academics, grassroots advocacy organizations, and policymakers. A "virtual think tank," our global partners produce policy briefs, commentaries and special reports on key foreign policy issues, most of which are widely disseminated for free to constituents around the globe. For more information, visit our website at www.irc-online.org.