|A layman's perspective from The Bahamas on the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) agreement
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| A layman's perspective from The Bahamas on the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) agreement.
By: Dennis A. Dames©2002
E-mail: [email protected]
The issue of the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA), is one that is daily discussed throughout the Bahamian society. The primary issue is: 'What's in it for us'. Since the December 1994 signing of the initial agreement by 34 democratic countries of the western hemisphere, including The Bahamas- the people of the islands are still in the dark about: exactly what does this free trade arrangement between nations in the region means for Bahamians.
It's fall 2002, and the FTAA settlement is not polished, and enforcement is expected by 2005. The gist of the free trade pact is to do away with trade barriers between the nations concerned- thereby hopefully reducing the cost of goods and services for hundreds of millions of people throughout the Americas. Cuba, a close neighbor of The Bahamas, United States, Haiti, and Jamaica- is presently excluded from a share of the pie to come. Additionally, Cuba is already trading with many nations in the region, including the United States, The Bahamas and Jamaica.
The exclusion of the communist nation in any regional agreement with the magnitude of FTAA- is certain to take away some creditability from the essence of such an arrangement. If the great United States of America can trade billions of dollars worth of goods and services with communist China yearly, then- what's the problem with trading with Cuba?
If many nations in the Americas could trade with the undemocratic regimes of the world, and have treaties in some instances- then what's the hang up with Cuba? Cuba should have a seat at the FTAA's table. It is one of the most pivotal nations in the western hemisphere, because of it's history, and close family and cultural ties throughout the region.
It is clear, that before an acceptable free trade pact between nations in the Americas is formulized- serious flaws that appear uncorrectable exist. One being, trading around Cuba; a nation of 12 million plus people- the largest island in the Caribbean and Americas. What's the wisdom in that?
In the Bahamas, the opinions about FTAA varies, and skepticism is the order of the day. Rightly so, as updated information from the powers that be, is lacking. Speculation is becoming more agonizing as facts evade.
Improving productivity and competitiveness is the calling cry to Bahamian workers. Their meaning and purpose are meet with subtle reluctance and suspicion. What do those things have to do with free trade, and what is to come? Bahamians are already saturated with the presence of foreign workers throughout The Bahamas, and the illegal immigration problem is not helping matters any. How will the free movement of labor impact an already nervous Bahamian workforce? Who is able to provide definitive information as to where the FTAA discussions are at this point?
The lack of current information, has become an enemy of the FTAA in The Bahamas. The public relations war is being lost due to a vague and apparent disjointed campaign. To complicate matters, the tax culture of The Bahamas appears threatened in light of a free trade agreement on the horizon. What are we going to change, and what are we going to convert to- in order to fall in line with a regional trading body? How will the strength of our currency affect trading with nations of the region with very weak currencies? How will wages and salaries that Bahamians are accustomed to- be impacted as a result of competition and consolidation?
As the date for a regional free trading system nears, more questions arise than answers. A general election in The Bahamas is due by 2006, and a free trade agreement is due in 2005. The present administration must do or die by the next election. The way the FTAA issue is bouncing, the challenge appears monumental.
Sovereignty, is also a major question. How will a free trade agreement in the Americas affect national sovereignty? How will smaller nations compete with the larger countries in the trading block of the Americas?
Competition too, is a major concern. Big nations versus little ones, and big powers implementing high tariffs to protect it's own industries at the peril of defenseless tiny economies. We see examples of this in the steel, agriculture and other industries already. It will certainly happen in the Americas in the advent of an FTAA agreement, and because of a culture of abandoning treaties in 'the national interest'.
From a layman's perspective in The Bahamas, the issue of the FTAA- is one that is aloof from the peoples concerned. Why it is so and remains- is an issue within itself. With an implementation date just 3 years away, and many individual and collective matters of nations are still unresolved; a recipe for delay appears to be cooking up.
The appetite for, 'what this free trade thing is about?', is getting larger by the day. We are not even a the local debating stage, because- how can something be discussed effectively if the knowledge of it is wanting? Therein lies the FTAA challenge to citizens of the Americas. The participating governments have an obligation to enlighten their population on what's going on with this FTAA. Failure to do so, will only result is their democratic removal form office and the concept of FTAA facing death by the ballot boxes throughout the Americas.
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| Nov 4th, 2002
I don't know much about the Bahamas, but I'm sure that until Cuba gets "a regime change" we (US) will not get into any agreement making trade easier with them. I don't condone Castro at all, and to some degree their isolationist tendencies are results of their own choosing, but the US' stubborness is a major factor.
Free trade [FTAA} agreement clarita zarate
| Sep 9th, 2009
Very good article!
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