Brief Notes on GATT, NAFTA and Other Trade Agreements

Definitions
Bretton Woods Agreement
    Agreement coming out of WWII (1945) to stabilize the world economy.
    Created GATT, IMF, and the World Bank

GATT    General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Revised under the “Uruguay Round” in 1994.
IMF    International Monetary Fund - lending and “consulting” organization for member nations
World Bank    Lending and “consulting” organization for non-member nations
WTO    Non-elected administration and dispute resolution agency created by the Uruguay round of GATT
MAI    Multilateral Agreement on Investment. Amendments in 1996 to the IMF charter have essentially covered most of the issues the MAI was to address.
OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Agreements
GATT    General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
Initiated after WWII and generally known as the Breton Woods Agreement the most recent rounds of discussion are known as the “Uruguay Round” ended in 1994 and became GATT as it is known today. “The Uruguay Round puts into place comprehensive international rules about which policy objectives so-called independent countries are permitted to pursue and which means a country might use to obtain even GATT-legal objectives.

Currently more than 110 nations responsible for more than 4/5ths of world trade have signed the agreement.

1.    Established the World Trade Organization [WTO] as the ruling body in international trade disputes.
2.    GATT supercedes all national and regional law.
3.    Provides nations and corporations the ability to sue other nations for barriers to free trade. Examples of such barriers may be government subsidies for industries, or to promote policy objectives.
4.    Corporations must be given “national treatment,” meaning corporations must receive the same treatment in bidding and contracting regardless of national or local origin.
5.    Includes non-tariff barriers as actionable. For example, environmental and worker protection legislation. “Any nation, state, or local standard that provides more protection than does a specified industry-shaped international standard” must past WTO tests to determine whether such standards are an illegal trade barrier. (Nader and Wallach)

FTAA - Free Trade Act of the Americas (excluding Cuba)

- Extend NAFTA to the rest of the hemisphere(with the exception of Cuba)
- Replace the NAFTA panel with the WTO as overseer and enforcer
- Remove all barriers to trade (except free movement of workers and population across national borders), including tariff and non-tariff policies, services and intellectual property rights, and constitutions, laws, regulations and policies.

- Extend the “national treatment” provisions of NAFTA
- Extend the “investor-to-state rights” of NAFTA

Where did this come from?  The FTAA has been in secret negotiations for seven years.

The constructors of this document have been the Trade Ministers of the governments involved, and representatives of major corporations. Neither the public nor government officials have seen this document - including our senators and congress people.

President Bush is going to request “fast track” approval to push through the FTAA. This means that when it comes to a vote, senators must vote yea or no and have no input into the document. It is reported that several other “attractive” pieces of legislation will most likely be “bundled” with the FTAA to ensure its approval.

The Summit of the Americas voted to implement FTAA by 2005.

MAI    Multilateral Agreement on Investment

-    Focus is on international investment and ownership.
-    Limits how and when nations, states and communities could limit foreign investment and ownership.
-    Requires “national treatment” for foreign investors and corporations.
-    Bans performance requirements such as employment, or reinvestment.
-    Allows investors to sue governments using the local courts.


Sources for more information on GATT, NAFTA, FTAA, MAI, WTO etc:

http://www.sierraclub.org
http://www.citizen.org
http://www.essential.org/EI.html   (Essential Information)
http://www.cgg.ch/   (The Commission on Global Governance)
http://www.ifg.org  (Intl. Forum on Globalization)
Public Citizen Global Trade Watch Unveiling NAFTA