The FTAA: Some Longer Term Issues

Aug 1999
The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) process was launched during the Miami Summit of Heads of State in December 1994. It was the centerpiece of a broader hemispheric initiative of political and socio-economic cooperation among 34 countries of the Americas with the objective to negotiate a hemispheric free trade agreement by the year 2005. The preparatory phase began in January 1995 and formal negotiations were launched in April 1998. The creation of an FTAA would clearly be the most important chapter in the history of regional cooperation in the Western Hemisphere and mark a fitting culmination to a fast maturing trade policy framework in Latin America and the Caribbean. The FTAA process is the result of progressive globalization of the world economy and a profound transformation in the region based on: (i) structural economic reforms in almost all the countries directed at stimulating market activity and a better articulation with the world economy; (ii) the emergence, or strengthening, of democratic regimes almost everywhere and (iii) political commitments to foster peace and cooperation among neighbors with a history of rivalry and conflict. Regional integration has been a fundamental complementary tool for achieving these ambitious national objectives, which permeate the entire region. Latin America and the Caribbean have a long tradition of interest in regional integration. An intense amount of activity in this area emerged out of the Post-War period. However, the initiatives in the first three decades following the War inserted themselves in the prevailing state-led import substitution strategy of the time, itself to a large extent a product of "market skepticism" derived from the Great Depression. In the 1990s, however, a "new" regionalism emerged in Latin America and the Caribbean that conformed to the new national strategies for economic and political transformation and preparation for globalization.