Next Stop, Quebec: A Sweeping Trade Pact, Shrouded in Secrecy, Draws Protesters From North and South

NAFTA, implemented in January 1994, was held up as a windfall for the economies of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. "Since Mexico came into our agreement, we have been at full employment," says Crane, "and it's our second largest trading partner." The Institute for Policy Studies, however, says that more than 400,000 industrial jobs have been lost in the U.S. as companies shifted their work south of the border, and some 8 million Mexicans have slipped from the middle class into poverty, many of them farmers who've been unable to compete with giant U.S. agricultural corporations.

Some nations at the Summit of Americas plan to resist portions of the FTAA, as developing nations opposed the WTO agreement in Seattle. For Canada, the sticking point is "Chapter 11," which, under NAFTA, allows corporations to sue governments if they believe their profits have been harmed by domestic laws that protect the environment or public health and safety. In 1998, the U.S.-based Ethyl Corporation sued Canada before a three-member NAFTA tribunal, charging that the country's ban on the polluting gasoline additive MMT was bad for business. When the tribunal ruled against it, Canada dropped the ban and paid Ethyl $13 million for lost profits.

Brazil worries about the privatization of public services, such as health care. By producing generic drugs, the Brazilian government cut the incidence of AIDS in half. But under FTAA, multinational pharmaceuticals could sue Brazil for impinging on their markets, with catastrophic consequences for people.

Denied entry: free trade protesters attempt to cross at a Canadian border checkpoint.
photo: Michelle Peterson
Denied entry: free trade protesters attempt to cross at a Canadian border checkpoint.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, where trade ministers met this past weekend to hash out a final FTAA draft, 10,000 people took to the streets in protest. Police blasted them with water from canons, sprayed tear gas, and shot rubber bullets.

FTAA "is like the reconquest of the Americas," says Eric Laursen, a member of NYC Direct Action Network. "First the Europeans, and now the corporations."

Protests and Solidarity Actions:

Quebec City:

The NYC Coalition Against the FTAA will run buses from New York to Quebec City. Buses will leave Union Square at 6 P.M. April 19 ($75 round-trip) and April 20 ($60). For information on travel and housing, send an e-mail or phone 212-663-7622.

The Autonomous Direct Action Working Group (Autodawg) will hold a convergence site in Burlington from April 16-18 for activists going to Quebec City. The gathering will include training and planning sessions, and media, legal and medical centers; call (802) 863-0571. For information on transportation from New York, e-mail Autodawg or call (917) 334-3781, ext. 1759.

Smash the FTAA! will head from Burlington to the border in a caravan on April 19. For information, see the group’s Web site or e-mail the Kingston Community Union.

April 20th: Day of Direct Action in Quebec City. Activists, union members, indigenous people and others will demonstrate against the FTAA. For information, see the Anti-Capitalist Convergence’s Web site or send an e-mail.

April 21st: Legal demonstration in Quebec City.

New York:

Direct Action Network and Ya Basta! are raising funds to transport and house thousands of activists at the Quebec City protests. To make donations or to find out how to join an affinity group, e-mail or phone NYC-DAN at 358-3966, or e-mail Ya Basta!.

"Dancing down the Border," a benefit for protestors going to Quebec City, will take place aboard the Frying Pan, a salvaged lighthouse ship at Chelsea Piers, Pier 63, West 23rd Street. Music by Akim Funk Buddha and more, Sat., April 14, 10 P.M., $10.

Related Links:

Direct action:
A20: International Day of Action
Opération Québec Printemps 2001 (in English)
Jobs With Justice

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch
Global Exchange
Alliance for Responsible Trade

Official sites:
Free Trade Area of the Americas
Summit of the Americas
U.S. Trade Representative

Independent Media Centers:
Centre for Media Alternatives of Quebec
Montreal Independent Media Center

« Previous Page