FTAA: the new colonisation

01 June 2002
Article
The Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA) is an international business deal disguised as a proposed treaty that would create the world's largest free market zone—affecting 650 million people and $9 trillion in capital.
The Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA) is an international business deal disguised as a proposed treaty that would create the world's largest free market zone—affecting 650 million people and $9 trillion in capital. It is the most ambitious and far-reaching undertaking so far in the process of economic globalisation. However the FTAA will not be implemented until 2005, which means that there is a window of opportunity for us to stop it from taking place, in the same way in which the Multi-lateral Agreement on Investment (in many ways the parent of the FTAA) was stopped. In this magazine we have tried to look behind the statistics and the figures to give a human face to the misery and suffering as a result of the various neo-liberal plans that are being imposed on Latin America to quite literally clear the way for the FTAA. Where possible, we have used personal testimonies from the people in South America themselves. Sometimes, from the point of view of putting the magazine together this has been a quite frustrating and time-consuming process. The type of pressure and repression that these people are habitually facing means that magazine deadlines are very rarely their first priority. This in itself was some insight into the realities faced by people engaged in frontline resistance to neo-liberal regimes. However, we didn’t want to fall into the trap of a patronising portrayal of the people of Latin America as helpless victims waiting to be rescued by Western activists. The many shapes and sizes of resistance to the FTAA could fill many Green Peppers, unfortunately in this issue we had space to include only a few of them. Some of the articles and one or two of the cartoons often tend to portray the USA as the sole bad guy behind the FTAA. Its true that the government of the USA has been one of the prime movers in the development of these plans. But if we ignore the other players (multi-nationals, the Canadian government, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the EU, the ruling elites in Latin America who have agreed to the treaties etc.) then we gravely simplify the analysis. A disproportionate focus on the USA makes it easier for the other players to scheme on, unnoticed. The geographic dispersion of these agents of the FTAA also means that there are many targets for articulating local resistance all over the world… which also answers some people’s questions as to why what happens in Latin America should concern them. This also means that we need not restrict our actions to heavily guarded U.S. embassies! This process of the concentration of wealth and power, and the marginalisation of the economically insignificant is happening around the globe. The fact that this happens so blatantly in Latin America offers us an opportunity to recognize and resist more ‘moderate’ and therefore more difficult to identify trends in other areas of the world. We might be accused of being sentimental, but the sub-title of this magazine -“Solidarity is the tenderness of the people” – made us and our compañer@s go a little bit warm and gooey inside when we first heard it. We chose it as a subtitle because learning so much about the diversity, bravery, compassion and endurance of the many social movements in Latin America evoked a similar feeling. We dedicate this magazine to them in solidarity.