Trade ministers reach agreement on FTAA guidelines

Trade ministers reach agreement on FTAA guidelines

While Miami police were busy containing some fringe groups of protesters,the 34 ministers who came to draft a Free Trade of the Americas treaty announced that they had reached an agreement.

The proposed FTAA would create the largest trading bloc in the world, including all countries in the Americas except Cuba.

Earlier in the negotiating process, trade ministers had developed a compromise that some were calling "FTAA-light." It was this watered-down version of the original FTAA that was agreed upon by the trade ministers the day after it was proposed.

The new deal essentially will enable countries to opt out of FTAA oversight in any areas of dispute. Avoiding the stickier issues helped bridge the gap between Brazil and the U.S., whose differences threatened to scuttle the deal. Trade ministers admitted that this document was the best they could take from the Miami meeting, but also noted that there were several more rounds of meetings ahead and that the final agreement was likely to change before its January 2005 deadline.

Few trade observers believed that any single proposal would satisfy the proposed treaty's largest economies, Brazil and the U.S. Trade relations between the two had been frosty after the collapse of global trade talks at a World Trade Organization summit in Canc?n, Mexico, in September.

Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister, recalled how different the ending was in Miami as compared to Cancun. "The great difference is that in Cancun, everyone was dancing to the beat of a different drum." But this time around, those same negotiators remembered "we're not just trade ministers - we have to keep a political vision in mind," Amorim said.