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Trade and the Economy in Latin America: Speech by President Obama (2012)

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Published on Apr 30, 2012

http://thefilmarchive.org/

April 13, 2012

While the ALCA was abandoned after the 2005 Mar del Plata Summit of the Americas, which saw protests against the venue of US President George H. W. Bush, including Argentine piqueteros, free trade agreements were not abandoned. Regional economic integration under the sign of neoliberalism continued: under the Bush administration, the United States, which had signed two free-trade agreements with Latin American countries, signed eight further agreements, reaching a total of ten such bilateral agreements (including the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement in 2003, the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement in 2006, etc.). Three others, including the Peru-United States Free Trade Agreement signed in 2006, are waiting for ratification by the US Congress.

The Cuzco Declaration, signed a few weeks before at the Third South American Summit, announced the foundation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasul-Unasur) grouping Mercosul countries and the Andean Community and which as the aim of eliminating tariffs for non-sensitive products by 2014 and sensitive products by 2019. On the other hand, the CAFTA-DR free-trade agreement (Dominican Republic--Central America Free Trade Agreement) was ratified by all countries except Costa Rica. The president of the latter country, Óscar Arias, member of the National Liberation Party and elected in February 2006, pronounced himself in favor of the agreement. Costa Rica then held a national referendum in which the population voted to approve CAFTA, which was then done by the parliament. Canada, which also has a free-trade agreement with Costa Rica, has also been negotiating such an agreement with Central American country, named Canada Central American Free Trade Agreement.

On the other hand, Chile, which has long followed a policy differing from that of its neighbours, has signed the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (aka P4 free-trade agreement) with Brunei, New Zealand and Singapore. The P4 came into force in May 2006. All signatory countries are member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The United States will be joining the group as well.

Apart from binational free-trade agreements, the US has also signed a number of bilateral investment treaties (BIT) with Latin American countries, establishing the conditions of foreign direct investment. These treaties include "fair and equitable treatment", protection from expropriation, free transfer of means and full protection and security. Critics point out that US negotiators can control the pace, content and direction of bilateral negotiations with individual countries more easily than they can with larger negotiating frameworks.

In case of a disagreement between a multinational firm and a state over some kind of investment made in a Latin American country, the firm may depose a lawsuit before the ICSID (International Center for the Resolution of Investment Disputes), which is an international court depending on the World Bank. Such a lawsuit was deposed by the US-based multinational firm Bechtel following its expulsion from Bolivia during the Cochabamba protests of 2000. Local population had demonstrated against the privatization of the water company, requested by the World Bank, after poor management of the water by Bechtel. Thereafter, Bechtel requested $50 millions from the Bolivian state in reparation. However, the firm finally decided to drop the case in 2006 after an international protest campaign.

Such BIT were passed between the US and numerous countries (the given date is not of signature but of entrance in force of the treaty): Argentina (1994), Bolivia (2001), Ecuador (1997), Grenada (1989), Honduras (2001), Jamaica (1997), Panama (1991, amended in 2001), Trinidad and Tobago (1996). Others where signed but not ratified: El Salvador (1999), Haiti (1983 -- one of the earliest, preceded by Panama), Nicaragua (1995).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US-Latin...

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