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Free trade talks begin in Miami

After three-and-a-half years of hemispheric summits and rounds of preparatory workshops, negotiators in September took the first concrete steps towards the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
The month-long negotiating session in Miami, Florida, brought together delegates from 34 countries to start addressing the many serious issues that must be resolved if the FTAA will be launched in 2005 as planned. The ambitious project was originally launched at the December 1994 Summit of the Americas in Miami.

Among subjects on the table in Miami were market access, agriculture, services, investment, subsidies, antidumping and countervailing duties, competition policy, government procurement, intellectual property rights and dispute settlement.

After Miami, negotiators will meet next in Panama and then in Mexico. Four additional sessions will be held to provide political direction; these will be chaired by Canada, Argentina, Ecuador and the United States/Brazil. At the same time, committees will provide guidance on issues involving civil society, electronic commerce and the problems of small countries.

The IDB, together with the Organization of American States and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, make up the Tripartite Committee that is providing technical and logistical support for the negotiations, as it did for the preparatory stage. IDB contributions include the creation of a hemispheric data base on market access to support discussions on tariffs and nontariff measures, technical studies on modalities for negotiating market access in regional agreements, a compendium of rules of origin in the hemisphere, a guide for customs procedures, and compendia on government procurement.

Since the Miami summit, the hemisphere's trade ministers have met four times to forge a work plan for the FTAA. At their March 1998 meeting in San José, Costa Rica, they adopted the declaration that launched the negotiations. That declaration, which can be compared to the 1986 Punta del Este Declaration that set in motion the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, represents the largest regional integration effort ever undertaken involving both developed and developing countries to realize free trade and investment in goods and services.

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