Questions and Answers

What is the FTAA?

FTAA stands for the " Free Trade Area of the Americas". It is essentially an expansion of the present North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It would include Canada, the US, Mexico, and all of the Americas not including Cuba.

What is going on in Quebec City in April 2001?

From April 20-22, 2001, representatives (country leaders, trade and vice trade Ministers) from 34 countries will be meeting in Quebec City for the 3rd Summit of the Americas. The first Summit of the Americas was held in Miami in December 1994, the second Summit was held in Santiago, Chile in April of 1998. Nine working groups were formed in Chile to deal with the major areas under the FTAA. These groups have met every few months to lay out their countries positions’ and to develop language for the Agreement.

Working groups are: agriculture, services, investment, dispute settlement, intellectual property rights, subsides and anti-dumping, competition policy, government procurement and market access.

In Quebec City, all representatives will meet and begin building a complete text for the trade agreement. The FTAA is to be completed and implemented by no later than 2005. (Canada and the USA are pushing for earlier implementation)

All negotiations have taken place in secrecy and presently no public text is available.

Why should I be concerned?

  • the goal of the FTAA is to build on NAFTA by further "reducing barriers to trade". It will contain a series of commitments to "liberalize" services — including education, health care, environmental services (including access to water), energy, postal services and anything else we pay for that isn’t a physical object.

  • the FTAA effectively increases privatization and deregulation in the western hemisphere — a very "business friendly" agreement that takes power away from governments and increases that of corporations.

  • presently, under chapter 11 of NAFTA, foreign corporations are empowered to sue governments directly for losses encurred due to the removal of domestic standards or laws —usually designed to protect public health and safety. This is called "investor-state" clause. The FTAA plans to expand upon this, explicitly valuing corporate profits over human costs.

Recent examples under NAFTA :

  1. The Canadian government was forced to pay $13 million in damages and to drop its ban on the gasoline additive MMT after being sued by the U.S.-based Ethyl Corporation. MMT, also know as methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl, is a manganese compound which, when burned in automobile engines, results in manganese air pollution.

    The relationship between high doses of inhaled manganese and various manifestations of neurotoxicity, respiratory toxicity, and reproductive toxicity has been well documented by neuroscientists. The federal government banned MMT in Canada as a health protection measure. The Canadian government chose to settle with the Ethyl Corporation before the NAFTA arbitration panel could rule, providing Ethyl with $US13 million and an apology.

  2. In October 2000, Canada lost another Chapter 11 case. S.D. Myers, a PCB waste destruction company based in Ohio, challenged a nine month ban on PCB exports from Canada to the U.S. S.D. Myers sought a $US 50 million penalty against Canada. The Canadian government has appealed the ruling

  3. In another case, U.S.-based Metalclad Corp. sued a Mexican state for compensation after a Mexican environmental zoning law forbid Metalclad to build a toxic waste disposal site. The company sued, stating the law was an effective seizure of the company’s property and under NAFTA rules (similar rules are to be implemented in the FTAA), required the offending government compensate the company.

    NAFTA tribunals meet secretly


What is the Canadian Government’s Position on the FTAA?

Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of International Trade, has stated he is "committed to protecting the right to regulate in pursuit of national objectives, including those in health and educational sectors". The Canadian government recognizes the danger of the NAFTA Chapter 11 "investor-state" clause, but as noted above, has already fallen victim to its power. Critics worry that the complex process of negotiating the FTAA trade deal, as well as Canada’s eagerness to accommodate private and international interests will weaken its stance.

What can I do?

  1. E-mail, call or fax letters to the Canadian government demanding that Canada maintain its ability to protect the future of our environment, health, education, culture and public services.

    The Right Hon. Jean Chrétien
    Prime Minister of Canada
    Phone: (613) 992-4211
    Fax: (613) 941-6900

    Hon. David Anderson
    Minister of Environment
    Phone: (613) 996-2358
    Fax: (613) 952-1458

    The Hon. Pierre Pettigrew 
    Minister of International Trade
    Phone: (613)995-8872
    Fax: (613) 996-8924

    Hon. John Manley
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Phone: (613) 995-1851
    Fax: (613) 996-3443 (fax)

  2. Educate yourself and your community — check out the Internet, go to a local information meeting, hold your own teach-in! (Call the Sierra Club of Canada for information on how to plug-in!)

  3. Get involved with groups who will be present at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April — Creatively express your concern! Mobilize, organize and join in solidarity with thousands of others!

Websites of Interest - Official FTAA website - Sierra Club of Canada Trade & Environment Page - Sierra Youth Coalition Homepage - Common Frontiers, Official organizers of the "Peoples Summit", counter-conference, teach-in funded in part by the Canadian Government - Toronto-based Mobilization for Global Justice, supported by the Council of Canadians and other large social, labour, and environmental groups - Operation SalAMI, Montreal-based non-violent organizers working on actions for the Summit of the Americas in QC - OCP-2001, Quebec City-based organizers - Public Citizen Global Trade Watch; excellent source of information - With offices in Canada & the USA, Rights Action supports rights-based community development, humanitarian relief and human rights projects in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti. - Breaking News and Views for the Progressive Community


Please contact the Sierra Club of Canada for local and regional FTAA organizational meetings, activities, workshops and group contact information: or (613) 241-4611.