The Free Trade Area of the Americas in the Context of U.S.-Latin American Relations

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The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is an international trade agreement that aims to eliminate the remaining barriers to the free flow of money, goods, and services across borders in the Western hemisphere (excluding Cuba) to create one large, open, and integrated market. The FTAA falls within the wider free trade and free markets approach promoted by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) to be part of a solution to poverty and inequality. In reality, the rules and practices of liberalized trade are designed primarily to create a stable and profitable environment for corporations and investors. Like other previous economic integration projects, the primary backers are the business community and the politicians over whom they have the most influence. Not surprisingly, the opponents of the FTAA can be found among groups concerned with labor rights, human rights, the environment, and indigenous concerns. The authors detail how the administration of George W. Bush succeeded in overcoming opposition to the FTAA within the U.S. Congress by regaining “fast track” negotiating authority in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States. In the process of gaining that authority the United States placed renewed pressure on the Latin American nations to complete the FTAA by its scheduled start date of 2005.