fighting free trade agreements
In 2005, we succeeded in persuading the European Commission to change the European Communities' position in the WTO and oppose the complete liberalization of the forest, fisheries and mining sectors. Our basis for this position is that liberalization is likely to have devastating effects not only on the environment but on the livelihoods of millions of the world's poorest people. This added to the mix of tensions and disagreements that brought about the indefinite suspension of the Doha Round in July 2006.
With the global trade agenda officially stalled, FoEI shifted its campaign focus to regional and bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs). In Europe, in collaboration with bi-regional networks and the Europe-wide Seattle to Brussels Network, we have monitored and lobbied the European Commission and the EU Member States in relation to the EU’s FTAs with the ACP countries (Economic Partnership Agreements or EPAs), Central America, the Andean Community, Korea, MERCOSUR and the EuroMed Free Trade Area. In Asia, we have campaigned against the US-Malaysia FTA and the EU-ASEAN FTA, working together with farmers, lobbying the governments of the region, and participating in various demonstrations and protests.
We have run a strong campaign against the FTAs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The fight against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which culminated in a campaign around the popular referendum in Costa Rica, helped to mobilize more than 300,000 people in the streets of San José. After the loss of the referendum in 2007, the battle shifted its focus to the newer FTA negotiations with the EU (EU-Central America Association Agreement), which are likely to have similar impacts on people and the environment in the region. Meanwhile, we have supported and developed concrete alternatives to ‘free’ trade along the lines of food sovereignty and solidarity economies.
FoEI groups from the Latin American and Caribbean region (ATALC) have successfully built strong alliances, especially with the farmers’ movement, to resist further corporate control of our economies, our land and our natural resources. Together with La Via Campesina and other networks from Central America, our groups co-organized and participated in mobilizations during the second round of the EU and Central America trade negotiations, parallel to the Americas Social Forum in Guatemala. The people demonstrated their opposition to the negotiations, and denounced the FTA's agenda that the EU is promoting in the region. Another important activity was a popular workshop where indigenous and rural communities analyzed the interests of the EU and European corporations who are pushing forward the FTA agenda.
FoE Uruguay produced 3 studies on the concrete impacts of the FTA that the EU is promoting in Latin America. The case studies covered the climate justice, food sovereignty, and the possibilities left for economic sustainable development with social justice. A delegation from ATALC also participated in the VII Hemispheric Meeting of the Struggle Against FTAs and for Integration of Peoples, held in La Havana, Cuba. This was an extremely useful forum for defining strategies and campaigns within the framework of the Hemispheric Social Alliance (Alianza Social Continental), one of our key allies in Latin America.
FoEI also hosted a key international gathering of trade campaigners in Brussels (April 2008). Organized jointly by trade campaign networks from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, the various events attracted more than 100 campaigners from 38 countries. We sponsored a “Week of Action” in Brussels, with representatives from Central America and other regions of the world, to inform EU decision-makers about communities’ priorities and the need for environmental protection. We also organized an event in the middle of the EU area in Brussels, a public hearing at the European Parliament and a series of meetings with MEPs and Commission officials. Participants also gave evidence to the European and Belgium Parliaments. We also organized an intensive speakers' tour in Europe for Southern civil society representatives, taking their messages about the EU’s FTAs out to European civil society in eight countries. You can listen to an interview with one the event organizers here. The week was also an excellent opportunity for all involved, including the Seattle to Brussels Network, La Via Campesina, 11.11.11 and other groups from South and North to share experiences, strengthen alliances and develop joint strategies.