October 24, 2000
COMMITTEE OF GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES ON THE PARTICIPATION OF
CONTRIBUTION IN RESPONSE TO THE OPEN INVITATION
Canadian Foundation For the Americas (FOCAL)
The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) is an independent, non-governmental organization dedicated to deepening and strengthening Canada’s relations with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean through policy discussion and analysis.
The present submission by FOCAL concentrates on two
themes: the first being the procedures of the Committee of Government
Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society, and the specific
civil society concerns about the environmental impact of the FTAA; and the
second being on the issue of smaller economies. Recommendations are
provided in each case.
Finally, the Committee
should amend the procedures regarding submissions so as to allow
submitters to indicate their agreement for the making public of specific
submissions. If so agreed by the submitting party, the submission should
be posted electronically on the section of the Official FTAA Home Page
that is dedicated to the work of the Committee. Should a submitter not
wish to make their views known to the public then they would retain that
privilege. If such a system were currently in place then FOCAL would be
agreeable to making the current submission available to the public.
- An expanded effort is required on the part of governments to
publicize the mechanism by which civil society may provide input to the
FTAA process. In particular, each government should undertake to place
an advertisement, at least of one-quarter page in size, in the 3 largest
circulation newspapers in the country.
- The Committee should extend the deadline for submissions in this,
the second, exercise to the end of December 2000 at a minimum and to the
end of February 2001 at most. The current deadline established by the
Committee is a full seven (7) months before the expected Ministerial
Meeting in Buenos Aires. An extension to the end of February 2001 would
still provide the Committee with some 6 weeks, at a minimum, time in
which to complete its work prior to the 2001 Trade Ministerial.
- The Committee should agree at its seventh meeting to allow an
opportunity for Civil Society to directly address the Committee for at
least a portion of the time allocated for the eighth meeting. This would
address one of the concerns of civil society, which is that the
“mailbox” mechanism does not provide any avenue for substantive feedback
with respect to the submissions made.
- Members of the Committee, and particularly the sitting Chair, need
to make further efforts to participate in a range of FTAA-related
forums, such as academic and civil society workshops, seminars and
conferences. The Committee remains very much a faceless entity, even to
those civil society elements that are attempting to follow the FTAA
- The Committee has an obligation, at a minimum in keeping with the
spirit in which it was created by Ministers, to be on the forefront of
transparency. Even its own procedures fail this obligation badly. At a
minimum, the Committee should issue a detailed press communiqué after
each and every meeting. The Committee should also issue a complete list
of participants for each meeting that would necessarily include
telephone, postal and electronic points of contact.
- The Committee should commit to recommending to Ministers that it be
empowered and indeed encouraged to engage in more active outreach
activities. Such activities would include, but not be limited to, the
holding of open public sessions and the provision of substantive replies
to submissions made constructively.
The Environment and the FTAA
A mechanism should be
created to develop a parallel agreement, linked to the FTAA, which
fosters the improvement of national environmental management, including,
at a minimum, that effective environmental laws are in place, and that
they are effectively enforced.
- The FTAA should include a strong statement in the objectives that
the States will undertake all activities under the agreement in a manner
consistent with environmental protection and conservation.
- The FTAA should include a commitment not to lower environmental
standards to attract investment.
- The FTAA should include a commitment that trade measures embodied in
multilateral environmental agreements take precedence over trade
provisions in the FTAA.
- The FTAA should include language that preserves the right of States
to establish levels of environmental protection that they deem
appropriate. This should include provisions stating that a country
challenging an environmental measure should bear the burden of proving
the measure is inconsistent with the agreement.
frequently encounter difficulties in complying with transparency or
information notification requirements during the negotiations
themselves. This is evident from the gaps that exist, for example, in
the Hemispheric Trade and Tariff Data Base. While responsibility for the
provision of such information will ultimately rest with national
governments, individual Negotiating Group Chairs should be charged by
the TNC with the responsibility for assisting to a) define the problems;
b) suggest solutions; and, c) provide written recommendations to the TNC
on such matters.
- Guidance is necessary from Ministers and the Trade Negotiations
Committee (TNC) that would set out the basic principles by which the
issue of smaller economies would be approached by the various
negotiating groups. As matters stand, each negotiating group has the
issue inscribed on its agenda, but without the guidance that would be
provided by a set of agreed principles. Guiding principles have been
arrived at for the FTAA negotiations as a whole (i.e., single
undertaking, comprehensive, WTO plus, WTO compatible etc.) yet the
smaller economies remain without a similar set of guideposts.
- On an urgent basis, the TNC should take on the responsibility of
arriving at a concrete definition of what constitutes a smaller economy
in the FTAA context. The lack of progress in the crafting of rules is
hampered by the absence of an operational definition of to whom such
rules would in fact apply. It might be a consequence of the principles
suggested in the first recommendation that the operational definition of
smaller economies might very well differ from one negotiating group to
another. In other words, smaller economies - and the presumed
differential treatment that would consequently be accorded - might very
well require a lesser degree of special attention in some negotiating
groups (i.e., competition policy) than in others (i.e., market access).
Enhanced technical assistance from
the Tripartite Committee, in particular, would also be of benefit to the
smaller economies in their efforts to meet their transparency and
notification obligations. It should be recalled that enhanced capability
in this area would also provide benefits in terms of the compliance
record of smaller economies with multilateral obligations as well.