News Release

Converging on Quebec: ‘Free Trade’ Issues

Government ministers and heads of state from throughout the hemisphere are gathering in Quebec for the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit. For activist perspectives, see: www.indymedia.org. For in-depth analysis, see: www.zmag.org/a20quebec.htm.

The following critics of the proposed FTAA pact are available for interviews:

MARIA LUISA MENDONCA
Director of the Global Justice Center in Brazil, Mendonca is currently in Quebec. She said today: “FTAA provides for the free circulation of capital and goods for the benefit of big multinational corporations, not civil society. Such an agreement prevents countries like Brazil from developing embryonic industries — it would force us to slash 85 percent of our tariffs to zero. Meanwhile, the U.S. insists on keeping internal subsidies and ‘anti-dumping’ rules. Brazil has had negative experiences trying to provide generic drugs for AIDS under corporate trade rules. FTAA would make it hard for developing countries to place restrictions on rampant speculative capital, like placing a Tobin tax on such speculation. Along with the structural adjustment policies of the International Monetary Fund, which pressure countries to make cuts in essential services like education and health care, these trade policies erode the democracy of Latin American countries.”
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MICHELLE SWENARCHUK
Counsel and director of international programs at the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Swenarchuk has studied numerous cases under NAFTA’s investment provisions (slated to be expanded under FTAA) which allow corporations to sue governments for infringing on their “investor rights.” For example, Sun Belt Water, a U.S.-based company, is suing Canada for damages of between $1 billion and $10.5 billion for banning bulk water exports. Meanwhile, Methanex, a Canadian-based company, is suing California for phasing out the chemical gas additive MTBE.
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TOM HANSEN
Hansen is grassroots coordinator for the Alliance for Responsible Trade, an umbrella group which has outlined alternative policies for economic integration that would serve to raise environmental and labor standards rather than lower them. He is now in Quebec.
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MARK WEISBROT
Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Weisbrot said today: “The name of this treaty is misleading: it is not primarily about ‘free trade.’ In fact, this agreement will almost certainly strengthen some of the most expensive, economically wasteful, and (in the case of life-saving pharmaceuticals) deadly forms of protectionism. These are the patents, copyrights, and other monopolies commonly grouped under ‘intellectual property rights.'”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167