Free Trade Agreements - FTAs

Source: Transnational Institute
The financial and economic crisis has revealed the fundamental problems of the free trade paradigm: free trade can lead to huge trade surpluses and deficits among countries with unequal trade capacity and unequal trade, economic and social policies. These trade imbalances and resulting current account deficits were first blamed to have contributed to the crisis and are now considered to be an obstacle to recovery of those countries with a trade deficit, such as the US, and create foreign exchange problems for some countries face. [see more]
Within the last decade and a half, the processes of economic privatization, globalization and deregulation have been imposed through different mechanisms. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been the most important instrument to carry out these policies.

However, civil society and most governments from developing countries consider the WTO to be ‘one of the least transparent organizations’, which excludes less developed countries from its negotiations in order to favor the interests of wealthy countries. On account of these reasons, the WTO is one of the organizations whose work is more closely monitored by non-governmental organizations. At the same time, its ministerial meetings - the organization’s highest decision-making body – have been turned into events for mass protest by civil society movements.

Accelerating processes

Since 1995, when the US considered that the WTO negotiations were not being completed as rapidly as expected, negotiations started being promoted to form regional free trade areas. The first of these negotiations that managed to come to light was the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in 1994. The IMF and World Bank guidelines to develop economic programs in Latin America during the 1990s, have been setting the path to put the FTAA into motion. Although the US is an important market for Latin American exports, the problem lies in the surrender of sovereignty over the management of internal economic policy that is demanded in exchange.

A few weeks after the failure of the WTO meeting in Cancun in 2003, the ministerial meeting that negotiated the FTAA was held in Miami. Once again, civil society and demonstrations played an important role: protests were staged again, the maneuvering room was restricted and Brazil in particular defended conditions for its industry and agriculture, thus making agreement impossible.

The United States, in the meantime, moves gradually forward by means of bilateral or reduced regional free trade agreements . It has already signed agreements with Mexico and Chile, and is speeding up negotiations for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). In this way, parallel agreements are being implemented with the same format and characteristics of a FTAA that serves Washington’s interests. Along these lines, we will end up with a network of agreements covering all Central America and several Andean countries. At the same time, it tries to develop regional negotiations in Africa and Asia. The disease of the day would be ‘Acute treatyitis’, according to the title of a document published by the Grain organization that we offer in this report.

‘Our planet is wrapped in a thick weft of international, regional and bilateral economic and financial agreements and treaties that have subordinated or taken the place of the basic tools of international and national human rights law (including the right to a safe environment), national Constitutions, economic legislation directed to national development and labor and social laws that tend to alleviate inequalities and exclusion’. (1)

A very clear example of these statements is the use of FTAs by the US to impose intellectual property standards, which favor the short-term commercial interests of US pharmaceutical companies, at the expense of public health in developing countries. The Oxfam organization compares five US treaties: NAFTA, Chile, Singapore, CAFTA and FTAA, which are unnecessarily stringent on developing countries and go beyond the already damaging requirements of the World Trade Organization (WTO). (2)

Given the large number of negotiation processes that are underway, it is difficult today to follow all of them, particularly taking into consideration that they are generally carried out secretly. However, by acknowledging the already completed agreements it becomes possible to analyze their real goals and contents.

These treaties not only address economic matters but also have an explicit political content whereby developing countries are put in a situation of subordination. Several examples are given in different sections of this report. In the US-Morocco treaty, the United States expresses interest in ‘promoting more tolerant, open and prosperous Islamic societies’. Other treaties (such as the one with Thailand) are explicitly presented as a means to strengthen military ties and cooperation in the ‘war on terrorism’ (3)

(1) "Human rights and bilateral treaties". Bilateral treaties on free trade and promotion and protection of investments: “arms of massive destruction” to national and international public law and human rights law. Joint statement submitted by the Europe Center – Third World, non-governmental organization with general consultative status and the American Association of Jurists. Commission on Human Rights, 56th period of sessions – July 26 to August 13, 2004. See full text . (Pdf format)

(2) "Undermining access to medicines: comparison of five US FTAs". June 2004, Oxfam. See full text . (Pdf format)

(3) Recent FTAs negotiated by the US include: US-Chile (2003), US-Jordan (2000), US–Morocco (2004), US-Singapore (2003), and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA–2004) that includes the Dominican Republic. The US is also negotiating numerous FTAs with other developing countries, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA deadline 2005), Andean countries, Thailand, Panama, Bahrain and Southern African countries, with others remaining under consideration.
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Wednesday, December 01 2010
The impact of free trade on the financial crisis … and vice versa
(Source: Transnational Institute)
Wednesday, January 27 2010
The China-Asean Free Trade Area: Propaganda and Reality
(Source: Transnational Institute)
Friday, January 30 2009
NAFTA's dangerous security agenda
(Source: Americas Policy Program, Center for International Policy (CIP))

Lists of treaties

Monitoring and assessment of FTAs (Third World Network)

Office of the United States Trade Representative

U.S. Commercial Service

World Trade Organization (WTO): Regional Trade Agreements

OAS Trade Unit’s Foreign Trade Information System – SICE

Center for International Business (CIB)



Controversy in Costa Rica over CAFTA (AWID)

CAFTA in Costa Rica would cause deepening inequality (Americas Program - Center for International Policy (CIP))

Costa Rica: why we reject CAFTA (IRC – Americas Program)

The war on CAFTA is just beginning (IPS)

CAFTA rules on sovereign debt: cementing the chains of debt (Center of Concern)

The CAFTA question: creating growth or entrenching poverty? (Center of Concern)

Outside funds may have influenced CAFTA negotiations (Third World Network Features)

CAFTA’s debt trap (Foreign Policy In Focus)

U.S.-CAFTA web site

U.S. Commercial Service

The World Bank and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)

Studies Conducted by the World Bank

Recolonizing Central America (Multinational Monitor)



NAFTA's dangerous security agenda (Americas Policy Program, Center for International Policy (CIP))

NAFTA and the elephant in the room (Americas Program - Center for International Policy (CIP))

Dissecting the North American Summit joint statement: Bush's last stand (Americas Program - Center for International Policy (CIP))

Fourteen years of NAFTA and the tortilla crisis (Americas Program, Center for International Policy)

'Deep integration'- the anti democratic expansion of NAFTA (IRC Americas Program)

The high cost of "free" Trade: Lessons from NAFTA (Hemispheric Social Alliance)

The effects of the NAFTA on human rights (FIDH)

NAFTA, CAFTA-DR, and the role of the environment (Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

NAFTA Secretariat

Factsheet on the NAFTA record: A 10th anniversary assessment (Transnational Institute - TNI)

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (Public Citizens)

NAFTA ten years later: (Maquila Solidarity)

US-Middle East Free Trade Area

Hegemony through free trade: Interview with Daoud Hamoudi (The Electronic Intifada)

Operation enduring free trade (APRN)

US business pushing for Middle East FTA (IPS)

Operation enduring Free Trade (ZNet)

European Union (UE) – Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP)

Partnership or power play? (Oxfam)

Africans fear 'ruin' in Europe trade talks (Pambazuka)

Economic Partnership Agreements and putting development first (Pambazuka)

Civil society and the Session of the African Union Ministers of Trade (Africa Trade Network-CSOs)

How the European Union could use EPAs to undermine access to affordable medicines (Third World Network - Africa)

Free trade as aid? (Pambazuka)

ACP civil society forum

Call to stop EU-ACP Free Trade Agreements (StopEPAs Campaign)

EU, ACP countries not singing from same hymn book (Third World Network Africa)

Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP Group)

European Union

Stop EU-ACP Free Trade Agreements (Internacional Gender and Trade Net)

Pacific Civil Society statement on the EU-Pacific EPA negotiations (EPAWatch)

New ACP-EU trade arrangements: New barriers to eradicating poverty? (Eurostep)

EPA Watch

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation - APEC

Official web site

APEC Summit - Chile 2004

Chile: workers speak out against free trade at Social Forum (IPS)


Moratorium on Free Trade Agreements (IRC – Americas Program)

Is the US free trade model losing steam? (American Friends Service Committee)

The Peoples Trade Agreement (Quest for Peace)

India-Brazil-South Africa: the Southern trade powerhouse makes its debut (Council On Hemispheric Affairs - COHA)

Towards East Asian monetary cooperation (Third World Network Features)

Alternative Regionalisms Project (TNI)


Free Trade Area of the Americas - FTAA

FTAA: a new colonialism?

China-Asean Free Trade Area (CAFTA)

The China-Asean Free Trade Area: Propaganda and Reality (Transnational Institute)

FTA United States-Colombia-Peru-Ecuador

Afro-descendants in Peru and Colombia oppose the Free Trade Agreements with the United States (American Friends Service Committee)

Song of the Sirens (Oxfam)

Letter of US-based NGOs questioning Andean-US FTA

Explosive mix of oil and free trade (IPS)

Bilateral trade agreements: case studies

Fighting FTAs: the growing resistance to bilateral free trade and investment agreements (Fighting FTAs)

Selected agreements (Choike)

European Union (UE) – Latin American

EU-LA free trade agreements: an agenda for domination (Grain)

Gender Indicators for monitoring Trade Agreements (WIDE Network)

From Washington Consensus to Vienna Consensus? (Transnational Institute)

EU-Mercosur free trade agreement (Transnational Institute)

Impact of treaties

The impact of free trade on the financial crisis … and vice versa (Transnational Institute)

New warnings on FTAs (Third World Network)

Japan digs its claws into biodiversity through FTAs (GRAIN)

How trade and investment agreements between rich and poor countries undermine development (Oxfam)

Fighting FTAs: An international strategy workshop (

Trade in the Americas: women central to the debate (Center of Concern)

The impact of free trade agreements on intellectual property standards in a post-TRIPS world (

FTAs: trading away traditional knowledge (GRAIN)

Serious effects of free trade treaties (Third World Network Features)

Free trade and the environment (Global Exchange)

Violently intent on keeping us in poverty: international trade policy (Pambazuka)

Trade Unions and Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements (Global Union Research Network - GURN)

Call to review bilateral trade deals (Third World Network Features)

Expanding intellectual property's empire: the role of FTAs (GRAIN)

Washington Consensus and Cotonou Agreement

Provisions of the Cotonou Agreement (EPA WATCH)

Washington Consensus

Washington Consensus (Institute for International Economics)

The Cotonou Agreement (European Union)

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