A Contentious U.S. – Andean Free Trade Agreement: Do It Right, or Not At All

Article
Summary
A free trade agreement between the United States and the Andean countries has the potential not only to increase trade and promote economic growth, but also to develop stability and democracy in the Andes. However, if the negotiations are treated as a zero-sum competition, the agreement has the potential to undermine those very goals.
 

The United States and the Andean countries of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru are meeting this week in Washington to continue negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement.  Significant issues remain to be resolved, particularly in the areas of agriculture, intellectual property, labor standards, and environmental requirements.  Yet negotiators have set an ambitious time frame, aiming for conclusion of negotiations in this round and ratification by the middle of 2006.  Interviews with U.S. policymakers and analysts, and with a broad range of Andean policymakers and representatives of farmer, worker, and industry organizations reveal serious concerns about the pace of the negotiations, the lack of communication and engagement between the administration and society in the Andean nations, and ultimately the effects of the agreement on livelihoods in the three South American countries.  

A free trade agreement between the United States and the Andean countries has the potential not only to increase trade and promote economic growth, but also to develop stability and democracy in the Andes.  However, if the negotiations are treated as a zero-sum competition, in which each side attempts to maximize the concessions received from the other while ignoring their larger implications, the agreement has the potential to undermine those very goals: it may worsen already severe unemployment and inequality in the Andes, fuel the drug trade, and aggravate political and civil conflict.  This risk is increased by the rushed pace of negotiations.  If the U.S. and the Andean countries establish a free trade agreement, it must support, rather than undercut, the larger goals of cooperation and economic development within the hemisphere.  For this to occur, the following steps should be taken:

  • The pace of negotiations should be slowed to allow thorough negotiation and consensus building in all four countries on contentious issues.  The U.S. Congress should renew the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) to enable this.  Negotiations should not exclude Ecuador in the rush to reach completion.  
  • U.S. and Andean governments should actively engage all sectors of society, particularly the Andean groups most vulnerable to the dislocations of trade liberalization, in order to build consensus and ensure the trade agreement does not undermine the goal of political stability and strengthening of democracy.  
  • U.S. and Andean governments should build a broader base of support for ratification of the agreement by including strong labor and environmental provisions.
  • Andean countries should prepare comprehensive plans for a smooth transition to take advantage of trade opportunities and adjust to the short term challenges of free trade.  The U.S. should assist in this preparation by allowing special treatment for areas which generate significant employment in the Andes, by lengthening phase-outs, and by sufficiently funding targeted capacity building to ensure the Andean countries can utilize their access to U.S. markets, and can develop alternatives to uncompetitive sectors. 

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Los Estados Unidos  y los países Andinos de Ecuador, Colombia y Perú se están reuniendo esta semana en Washington para continuar negociaciones para un Tratado de Libre Comercio.  Cuestiones de suma importancia quedan todavía por ser resueltas, particularmente en las áreas de agricultura, propiedad intelectual, estándares de la ley laboral, y requerimientos ambientales.  Sin embargo, los negociadores han determinado un tiempo límite ambicioso para concluir las negociaciones luego de esta ronda y ratificar el TLC para mediados del 2006. Entrevistas con analistas políticos y negociadores Norteamericanos y Andinos así como representantes de organizaciones de agricultores, industrias y uniones de trabajadores revelan serias preocupaciones acerca del ritmo apresurado de las negociaciones, la falta de comunicación  y compromiso entre la administración y la sociedad en las naciones Andinas y en última instancia los efectos del acuerdo en el sustento de las personas en estos tres países Sudamericanos.

Un tratado de libre comercio entre los Estados Unidos y los países Andinos tiene el potencial no sólo de incrementar el comercio y promover crecimiento económico, pero también  de desarrollar estabilidad y democracia en los Andes. Sin embargo, si el proceso de negociación es tratado como un sistema de competencia en el cual la pérdida de uno es la ganancia del otro y en la cual cada lado intenta maximizar las concesiones recibidas mientras se ignora las largas implicaciones, el acuerdo tiene el potencial de socavar dichos potenciales. Así, se empeorará las severas situaciones actuales de desempleo e inequidad en los Andes, se estimulará el tráfico de drogas y se agravará los conflictos políticos y civiles. Estos riesgos incrementan con el paso apresurado en que se están realizando las negociaciones.  Si los EE.UU. y los países Andinos establecen un tratado de libre comercio, éste debe apoyar, en vez de abatir las grandes metas de cooperación y desarrollo económico dentro del hemisferio.  Para que esto ocurra, los siguientes pasos deben tomarse:

  • El ritmo de las negociaciones debe avanzar más despacio para permitir una negociación minuciosa y crear consenso en los cuatro países sobre los temas contenciosos. El Congreso de los Estados Unidos debe renovar la Ley de Promoción Comercial Andina y Erradicación de la Droga (ATPDEA, por sus siglas en inglés). No se debe excluir a Ecuador en el apremio de concluir las negociaciones.
  • Los gobiernos de EE.UU. y de los países Andinos deben incluir activamente a la sociedad civil con el motivo de construir consenso y asegurar que el tratado de comercio no pase por alto la meta de estabilidad política y reforzamiento de la democracia.
  • Los EE.UU. y gobiernos Andinos deben construir una base de apoyo más amplia para la ratificación del acuerdo a través de la inclusión del suministro de leyes labores y ambientalistas firmes.
  • Los países Andinos deben preparar planes exhaustivos para una transición más viable en el que se adapten a los retos a corto plazo del libre comercio al mismo tiempo que aprovechan las ventajas  que ofrece la oportunidad de un comercio más amplio. Los EE.UU. deben asistir en esta preparación permitiendo en el acuerdo un tratamiento especial  en las áreas de generación de empleo significativas en los socios Sudamericanos.  Esto se puede lograr al extender los períodos de reducción de tarifas, y al destinar los suficientes fondos para capacitación, con el fin de asegurar que los países Andinos puedan beneficiarse del acceso a los mercado Norteamericano, y desarrollar alternativas para los sectores no competitivos.

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End of document
 
Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2005/11/13/contentious-u.s.-andean-free-trade-agreement-do-it-right-or-not-at-all/3dwc

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