QUEBEC CITY - The Summit of the Americas ended here
declaration by leaders of 34 countries of the western hemisphere
democracy and with an endorsement of a plan to have a free trade
area up and
running by December 2005.
However the Apr. 20-22 meeting was overshadowed by street clashes
police and a small section of an estimated 30,000 people
the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
Demonstrators charge that the FTAA seeks to grant excessive powers
multinational corporations, is not environmentally unfriendly and
benefit the majority of the region's poor.
But inside the conference chamber governments were more concerned
issue of democracy, so much so that the final document of the
'Declaration of Quebec', contains a democracy clause that allows
to the FTAA to throw out any member who breaches that provision.
The 34 leaders agreed to convene a meeting of experts soon to
examine, in each
country, political party registration, access of political parties
and the media, campaign financing and the manner in which
''The benefits of free trade will accrue only to those who abide
democratic clause,'' Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien told
Once created, the FTAA will be the world's biggest free trade area
hemisphere from Canada to Chile and encompassing nearly 800
With that in mind, leaders endorsed the declaration of the Sixth
the FTAA held earlier this month in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In
government ministers adopted a timetable that will see
and signed by January 2005. The agreement is to be ratified and
April 2002 has been set as the date for the beginning of official
on agriculture, merchandise trade, services and government
Proposals on the environment and labour will only be dealt with at
Many Latin American countries have opposed US proposals to adopt a
established in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
the lowering of labour and environmental standards to attract
Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso made it clear that
will not go along with the FTAA if the United States is not
willing to lower
agricultural subsidies and make changes to anti-dumping laws that
difficult for regional economies to enter the US market.
Responding to the concerns of smaller countries, the conference
recommendations that a committee be charged with formulating ways
to deal with
the different levels of development in the region by no later than
2001. Economies vary in size from 350 million dollars to 9
Caribbean countries say they want a mechanism that provides
financing to ensure their countries can compete when the free
Responding to such concerns, Canada announced it would set up an
connectivity in the Americas to bridge the digital divide. It
million dollars this year towards the centre, with additional
expected to come from regional development banks.
Meanwhile outside the conference hall, the Canadian police used
cannons and rubber bullets to stop demonstrators intent on
creating havoc on
the streets. By Sunday more than 400 protestors had been arrested.
''Unfortunately the media tended to concentrate on the bricks
few,'' says Robin Rosenberg of the North-South Centre at the
Miami. He says some sections of civil society made a number of
through a civil society roundtable, which officials agreed
to take up.
But some organisers of a People's Summit which ended the day the
leaders began their parley, charged that that the consultation
process was not
genuine and was meant only to buy public support. That summit,
which saw civil
society meeting to discuss the issue of a hemispheric free trade
the FTAA, noting that it was yet another accord which would raise
of transnational corporations and do nothing for the ordinary or
of the Americas.
Hosting a People's Summit was a last minute decision by the
in the face of increasing agitation from civil society groups, but
select few were invited to participate. There were no non-
from Andean countries or from the Caribbean.
''People from the People's Summit chose not to attend the NGO
because they get more attention that way,'' said Rosenberg
between the various strata of civil society.
The Quebec declaration pledges that FTAA negotiators will increase
communication with civil society, ''to ensure that it has a clear
the development of the FTAA negotiating process''.
''We are determined to inform our countries of the contents of our
We need to explain what we are attempting to achieve,'' said
president Fernando de la Rua whose country hosts the next Summit
Americas on a date yet to be announced.
''The next summit we will hold in Argentina will not require walls
coming to oppose, but it will have space for those coming to
Copyright 2001 Inter Press Service