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Humanizing the FTAA  

"The Greater Caribbean This Week"

[Norman Girvan]
[About ACS]

If the FTAA is to bring all-round benefits to Latin American and Caribbean countries, then it must make specific provision for the smaller countries and disadvantaged social groups. That was the view advanced by this columnist at a presentation made in Ottawa last week.

The occasion was a Conference on Caribbean and Canadian NGOs Perspectives on the FTAA, organized by A-Dialogue, an organization representing 2 million Canadians of African descent; and Alternatives, a Canadian NGO Network that organised last year’s Peoples Summit of the Americas.

Three years ago at the Davos World Economic Forum, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had observed that the spread of markets globally was outpacing the ability of societies to adjust, making the world economy vulnerable to backlash from the “isms” of the post-cold-war world, including terrorism.

The FTAA will create a single market over the American hemisphere, Cuba excepted, but the countries are of widely differing sizes and levels of development. A total of 21 countries in the Greater Caribbean each have less than one-fiftieth of the size and resource endowment of the United States and less than one-twentieth of the size and resource endowment of Brazil and Canada.

Under these circumstances, the “equal treatment of unequals” will likely lead to greater inequality, both between and within countries; in a region already marked by the widest disparities in income distribution in the developing world.

The FTAA should make specific provision for Special and Differential Treatment for Smaller and Less Developed economies, guaranteeing them longer periods of adjustment, special exemptions, and safeguards and flexibility in the application of norms and disciplines. Special assistance is needed to manufacturing, agriculture and service industries for competitive adjustment and export diversification.

The aim should be to “level up” these economies and avoid a “race to the bottom” in competing for foreign investment based on low-cost labour.

The FTAA should also make financial provisions for the poorer and weaker economies and the vulnerable social groups, to assist with the modernization of social and economic infrastructure and to cushion the social impact of trade liberalization. A model exists in the European Union’s regional development and structural funds targeted at less-favoured regions, areas with specific handicaps, vulnerable groups in the society and local and regional authorities. EU provisions for this amount to EU 213 billion over the 2000-2006 period.

The Margarita Declaration adopted at the 3rd ACS Summit in December 2001 calls for the inclusion of Special and Differential Treatment and of a Regional Development Fund within the FTAA. Determined efforts at negotiation and lobbying will be needed to bring this about. NGOs and other civil society organizations, including the private sector, need to join forces with governments in these efforts.

If the Caribbean Diaspora in North America wants to “help”, it could examine ways of lobbying the governments of their adopted countries for the inclusion of such provisions in the FTAA. It could also try to mobilize technical assistance for regional governments in their negotiations and for businesses in their marketing and modernization strategies.

On the evidence of the Ottawa Conference, Diaspora organizations still have some way to go in organizing themselves to support the region in its FTAA challenges.

  The views expressed are not necessarily the official views of the ACS. Feedback can be sent to

March 10, 2002

Revista INTER-FORUM is affiliated with (ICCAP)

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1) Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John collins can be read at:


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