View Full Version : Summit Of Americas Ends In Deadlock

11-06-2005, 10:09 PM
Summit of Americas ends in deadlock
29 nations seek trade plan talks; 5 wait on US deal


By Colin McMahon, Chicago Tribune | November 6, 2005

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina -- The Summit of the Americas ended last night in Argentina, hours behind schedule, overshadowed by hostile street protests and characterized by a glaring split over free trade incorporated into the final declaration.

That declaration came too late for President Bush. He left Mar del Plata in the afternoon, heading to Brazil and having failed to resurrect the Free Trade Area of the Americas initiative. Instead the FTAA talks will remain as they have been for nearly two years -- moribund -- until things change on the global scene.

Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa of Argentina insisted the FTAA is not dead, as President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela had declared Friday in a large and boisterous rally aimed at Bush. But Bielsa also made clear that Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela would not consider a new round of talks until the United States and other potential partners change some of their trade and economic policies.

The FTAA, envisioned by President Clinton and later embraced by Bush, foresees a free-trade zone that would stretch almost from the Arctic to the Antarctic. It would affect farmers, manufacturers, and consumers. Supporters say it would boost productivity, create jobs, and raise standards of living across a region plagued by poverty.

But the five dissenting nations say the economic playing field is tilted against their industries, their exporters, and their societies. They ''maintain that the necessary conditions still do not exist to achieve a fair and balanced hemispheric trade agreement," according to Point 19 of the 76-point declaration that was finally agreed to last night.

It was Point 19 that kept negotiators working the corridors this week in Mar del Plata. They stayed up into the early hours. They wore out translators, who at one point said ''Basta!" and then ''Enough!" and went off to bed.
They batted around three proposals, with the main point of contention being whether to resume FTAA talks in April 2006. But even when the presidents took over, the negotiations produced no compromise language that all 34 summit leaders could sign.

So the summiteers codified the split that everyone knew existed: 29 nations, led by the United States and Mexico, vowed to get their negotiators moving next year on how to address FTAA's problems and reach an agreement. The five others will wait to see, among other things, whether the United States can reach a deal with the European Union and slash some of its tens of billions of dollars in agricultural subsidies.

US officials said Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had lobbied hard for the Panamanian proposal. But they said they were satisfied with the summit, even though for Bush it ended not with a final summit declaration celebrated over a closing lunch, but with a quick exit from ongoing talks to board Air Force One.

On the flight to Brasilia, where Bush will meet today with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, White House officials said the summit was important in affirming the US commitment to the region.

''There is nothing in stone that says every time leaders get together they have to have a summit communique," national security adviser Stephen Hadley said.

Bush's ''approach is not to try and dominate but to participate as one of equals and listen, and that's what he did," Hadley said. ''At a critical time, he made his views clear."

Bielsa and other delegates denied that the split over trade had made the summit a failure. But the high-profile battle, especially with Chavez boasting that ''the tomb of the FTAA is in Mar del Plata," overshadowed other elements of a summit aimed at spurring job creation and supporting democratic governance.

Critics of the free-trade accord in the United States said Bush miscalculated at the Summit of the Americas. The rejection by Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, and Friday's protests by anti-American demonstrators showed that most in the region oppose further liberalization of their economies, the critics say.

''Latin Americans want a good, positive relationship with the United States, but they are really concerned that the NAFTA relationship and the NAFTA model are wrong for them," said trade analyst and Bush critic David Edeli, referring to the 1994 treaty among the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

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