News Release

FTAA: Crossroads at Miami Summit


Hernandez Ponce is a sewing machine operator and president of SITEMEX, the only union in the sweatshop garment industry in Mexico. The union was founded last year after two years of efforts which began when Hernandez Ponce and four other workers refused to eat the factory food to protest substandard conditions, widespread sexual harassment and a weekly wage of $30. Students in more than 20 U.S. universities helped by pressuring their schools’ administrations to raise the issue with Hernandez Ponce’s employers. She said today: “NAFTA has created a sweatshop economy for Mexico, and now FTAA threatens to expand it to the hemisphere.” Eusse is the Secretary General of the United Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CUTV). He said today: “The FTAA would institutionalize the privatization of Venezuela’s natural resources. This is opposed by President Hugo Chavez.” Rivera is the director of the Campaign for Labor Rights and a member of the National Lawyers Guild, on call in Miami to help protect civil liberties.
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Martinez is a research associate with the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network and author of Pillars of Power: How the Free Trade Agenda Promotes Dirty Energy. She said today: “FTAA would make it cheaper and easier for corporations to exploit the resources of developing countries rather than develop clean sources of energy.”
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Anderson is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who has followed the FTAA negotiations since they began in 1994. She said today: “The current FTAA proposal is based on NAFTA. There is another large-scale experience out there: the European Union. The EU has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in grants to narrow gaps between richer and poorer member countries and regions…. To varying degrees, all have made progress…. These trends are in stark contrast to NAFTA. NAFTA’s ‘poor partner,’ Mexico, has seen its GDP per capita plummet as a percentage of the North American average from 40 percent in 1982 (before Mexico began sweeping free market reforms) to 32 percent in NAFTA’s first year [1994] to 30 percent in 2001…. [A strategy of bolstering Mexico] would help U.S. workers too: without economic and environmental improvements in the poorer countries, there is no way effectively to reduce the incentive for companies to export U.S. jobs to areas of low wages and lax environmental enforcement.” Cavanagh is the director of IPS. They are among the authors of Field Guide to the Global Economy.

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Hansen-Kuhn is the international coordinator of the Alliance for Responsible Trade. She said today: “We are not against an integration that would benefit people in this hemisphere and promote justice and sustainable development. The FTAA was drawn up without the participation of civic organizations around the hemisphere. In fact, repeated attempts by many people and organizations to participate in the discussion and the planning were ignored. The FTAA is designed to facilitate corporations moving in and out of communities without responsibilities to the local people or the environment.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167