The Fifth Hemispheric Encounter against the FTAA concluded in Havana, Cuba on April 15th. Close to 400 delegates from movements around the Americas debated how to unify forces and defeat the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
The FTAA is an attempt by President Bush to create a 34-nation hemispheric free trade agreement modeled after NAFTA, the US free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. Such a deal would largely benefit US-based corporations and other established corporate power.
This year’s gathering in Cuba was considerably smaller than in years past, but organizers said that this was due to the failed attempts by the Bush Administration to re-ignite FTAA negotiations in the US model. When those efforts failed earlier this year, Bush announced that he would gladly seal bi-lateral deals with willing nations.
The shift in strategy over the exportation of free trade policies occurred after the 2003 FTAA negotiations in Miami, when Brazil forced through an amendment allowing countries to "opt-out" of sections of the FTAA deal. The US called the amendment "Swiss cheese."
Despite the gains posted by social movements against the FTAA, organizers said the gatherings would continue to be held until the pact was surely defeated. The next gathering is scheduled for May 3-5, 2007.