FTAA Update January 2003

Our second issue focuses on plans for 2003. You can help!-
circulate this e-letter to friends and organizations.-
subscribe to our listserv for crucial campaign news: email update subscribe@peoplesconsultation.org .
- check out www.peoplesconsultation.org for action tools,
updates, events calendar, organizer's manual.

Hemisphere-wide protests and referendums are on 2003's agenda
The Hemispheric Campaign Against the Free Trade Area of the Americas met in October in Quito and again in November in Havana to share information on national and sectoral campaigns. Delegates from 34 nations developed long-term strategies to confront the spider web of the FTAA, the World Trade Organization, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, bilateral trade agreements, Plan Puebla Panama, etc. With fast-track authority in hand, the Bush administration is promoting a multifaceted strategy to lock in this corporate-centered model of economic integration. The Havana and Quito meetings consolidated grassroots commitments to multifaceted campaigns, coordinated across borders whenever possible. A detailed report is available at www.asc-hsa.org.

The Havana meeting featured Evo Morales, indigenous leader from Bolivia who narrowly lost recent presidential elections, Fidel Castro, and 800 activists from community groups and NGOs from throughout the hemisphere. This was the second annual anti-FTAA meeting held in Cuba, and delegates made significant advances in terms of concrete strategies, including a call for each country to hold a popular referendum on the FTAA. Brazil's successful referendum in September drew nearly 10 million participants, and referendums are planned or in process in Mexico, Canada, and the United States. For information on the US People's Consultation on the FTAA, see www.peoplesconsultation.org.

The crisis in Latin American agriculture dominated much of the Havana meeting. Many small and medium-sized producers are unable to compete with highly subsidized US grain production. Millions of campesinos have been forced from their land to look for work in sweatshops or migrate to large cities or the US. A crisis looms for Mexican campesinos in January of 2003 when NAFTA provisions are scheduled to eliminate most agricultural tariffs. A second potential blow may occur in September of 2003 when the World Trade Organization takes up agricultural at the Cancun ministerial. Campesino organizations are calling for massive protests, including blocking borders, during both of these key events.

A hemispheric Day of Action has been called for the opening of the WTO meeting in Cancun, Mexico on September 9 or 10. There will also be a national protest with local solidarity actions during the next FTAA ministerial meeting in Miami, probably in November. These two protests can make corporate trade agreements a national issue for the 2004 elections. Locally, people are conducting "people's consultation" surveys, passing city and state resolutions, and broadening the base of awareness and opposition to the FTAA.

Here is a sampling of activity in the US. You can see more at www.peoplesconsultation.org. If you have local activity to report, please contact mprokosch@faireconomy.org or 617-423-2148 x 24.

California: people connect the FTAA to local issues
In October of 2002, the Mexico Solidarity Network and Global Exchange co-organized eight public hearings on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) through the state of California. The hearings were sponsored by the Alliance for Responsible Trade as a part of the People's Consultation, a strategy to educate our communities about the threat of the FTAA and mobilize people for action.
Fela Contreras, a former Mexican maquiladora worker who was part of the first compliant filed under the NAFTA labor side agreements, spoke about the devastating effects that NAFTA has had on working people in Mexico and the failure of the NAFTA labor side agreements. Herlinda Hernandez, a displaced Colombian union organizer, spoke about the relationship between Free Trade and Plan Colombia and the expressed concern that the FTAA would further aggravate violations of labor rights which are rampant in Colombia. (Since 1990, over 1800 Colombian trade unionists have been assassinated).
In each city local people spoke about their concerns about the FTAA, drawing local-global links in the discussion around Free Trade. These speakers included immigrant garment workers, former maquila workers, local and state officials, union organizers, environmentalists, solidarity activists, and others. We spoke directly to over 500 people and thousands were reached through the media. One hearing was recorded for cable TV, one hearing was recorded for a local radio station, and the international speakers did one radio interview.
-Jessica Marques

Texas: city councils say "no" to the FTAA
Texas Fair Trade Coalition includes the Texas AFL-CIO and eight Central Labor Councils, Texas Farmers Union, many environmental groups, religious and other community organizations. We have passed a City Resolution on Globalization in the Austin City Council and we are working on passing this in other major cities as well. We are also holding meetings to discuss the FTAA with Congressmembers in 18 swing districts across Texas.
And we're doing grassroots education. At our Texas Student Conference on Alternatives to Corporate Globalization, students from across Texas met to discuss organizing on their campuses. Noam Chomsky was the keynote speaker at this conference. We also have a Globalization Basics workshop which trained volunteers to present a workshop on the global economy to union locals, congregations, and community groups in their region of the state. Only through educating and uniting as many sectors of the community as possible will we be able to defeat FTAA!
-Megan Bobier

Chicago: a neighborhood votes on the FTAA
A coalition including the Mexico Solidarity Network, American Friends Service Committee, and Jobs with Justice worked for two months this fall to build an organizing campaign against the FTAA in Rogers Park. This immigrant neighborhood is diverse in language, ethnicity, and class. Its diversity posed challenges, as did unfamiliar concepts like "political economy" and "FTAA." However, organizers connected global economic issues to the realities of poverty, joblessness, and the lack of affordable housing which plague so many area residents. Two public events and various workshops launched a sustainable process of outreach and dialogue. The group feels confident that with more time and resources they will be able to successfully expand this organizing model to other similar Chicago neighborhoods.

New Freedom Bus Tour takes FTAA referendum nationwide!
"As families who have watched our communities be torn apart as a result of free trade policies, privatization and welfare reform (a form of structural adjustment) - we refuse to remain silent or invisible. We are determined that those of us whose very lives are threatened by these policies play an active role in the fight to stop the FTAA."
With these words, Kensington Welfare Rights Union and the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign launched a 30-day bus tour from Maine to Mississippi, the Carolinas to California. Each event connected local issues to global injustice and let people vote on the FTAA. For detailed descriptions and photos see www.kwru.org.