representatives of the Trade Union Confederations of the Americas, affiliated
and fraternal organizations of the Inter-American Regional Organization
of Workers (ORIT) and the International Trade Secretariats (ITS) met in
Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on May 12 and 13, 1997. We express once again our
concern with the FTAA process and offer recommendations to our governments
and societies that this process reflects the principles of democracy, broad-based
development, and social justice.
many years the trade union movement has been monitoring the disastrous
consequesnces for workers and the peoples of the Americas of a market-driven
integration process. This process is causing the loss of jobs, reduction
of wages and social services, and the erosion of fundamental principles
Denver we drew attention to the need for effective involvement of different
social sectors in the negotiation of the FTAA. We deplore the anti-democratic
attitude of governments, such as those of Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia
and Peru that oppose the creation of a Labour Forum. This opposition ignores
workers’ contributions to the creation of wealth. The exclusion of labour
from this process is unacceptable, especially in light of the official
recognition of the Business Forum.
FTAA, as currently implemented, is an unjust and anti-democratic process
that we will oppose. It will be the largest commercial agreement in the
continent, involving countries of disparate size and of contrasting social
and political conditions. It will not lead to broad-based social and economic
trade, a model of exclusion
integration of the Americas must take into account social imbalances between
and within countries. We do not believe that free market forces will automatically
generate long term economic growth and employment. In Latin America, unemployment
has increased along with the process of unilateral and accelerated trade
liberalization. The number of excluded people and those who survive only
by turning to the informal sector has increased while wealth has become
concentrated. The ongoing liberalization process has contributed to the
decline of the family farm and an increase in food dependence. The growth
in rural migration has led to increased poverty, unemployment and violence
in urban areas. United Nations data show that in 1960 the wealthiest 20%
of countries owned the equivalent of 30 times what the poorest 20% of countries
owned. The difference has doubled. Today it is 61 times. We live in a world
in which 15% of the world’s population owns 80% of the world GDP.
is imperative that economic and social policies are coordinated at the
international level to overcome inequalities, create jobs, improve the
quality of life and guarantee sustainable economic growth. We must counter
the growing strength of international oligopolies which act globally without
any governmental control. In addition, the integration process should respect
the right of each country to seek food self-sufficiency. Food is not just
a commodity, but a basic human right. Agrarian reform is an instrument
of social justice, development and generation of employment that should
be adopted in the majority of countries of the continent.
workers, international trade is not an end in itself. It must benefit all
peoples. We oppose free trade without social safeguards, without appropriate
guarantees for conditions of labour and social rights and without protection
of the environment. Comparative advantage must not be founded on the violation
of basic human rights. Workers will not continue to pay for the consequences
of intensified international competition resulting from free trade.
for the Americas
workers we have accumulated experience on the effect of trade liberalization.
We observe a generalized trend to attack our rights, and pressure for greater
flexibility and growing precariousness of the labour market. The progress
promised to us in the struggle against poverty and disease, and for education,
nutrition and employment has not been achieved. Latin America faces a great
social challenge, and we believe that FTAA does not recognize this.
the last 12 years, the United States and Canada have also experienced significant
trade liberalization. Meanwhile, real wages have decreased, job instability
has increased, inequality and poverty have grown, and there has been an
alarming reduction in employment in the manufacturing sector.
hemisphere is characterized by enormous inequalities between and within
countries. The United States has a GDP equal to 75% of the total goods
and services produced in the hemisphere. Its capacity to mobilize technological
and capital resources is far greater than that of countries in the southern
part of the Americas. Therefore, trade agreements must included a balanced
and sustainable strategy for social integration. The problem of foreign
debt needs to be addressed as part of this strategy. The debt still has
a harmful effect on the economies of most FTAA countries because it greatly
reduces governments’ capacity to intervene in key areas of development
such as housing, health, education and the environment.
labour movements of the hemisphere are offering concrete proposals to confront
the challenges of sub-regional agreements like NAFTA, MERCOSUR, CARICOM,
the Andean Pact, and SICA. Our goal is integration that preserves the gains
we have made, promotes social development, and strengthens workers’ rights
as an integral part of these agreements.
proposal regarding the negotiation of the FTAA
these reasons, we oppose the current commercial model of the FTAA. The
process needs to be democratic, transparent, and open to much broader participation.
It must recognize the immense economic and social disparities in the region.
again, we demand the official recognition of the Labour Forum and the establishment
a Working Group on Labour Rights. But this is not sufficient.
bi-lateral and multi-lateral trade agreements must incorporate a social
the ORIT-ICFTU, the International Trade Secretariats, and fraternal organizations
declare our firm determination to fight for democratization of the FTAA
must be recognition of core labour standards and the creation of mechanisms
for effective compliance with these by the countries in the FTAA, including:
the creation of environmental protection mechanisms to regulate the action
of large corporations and conglomerates which threaten the quality of life.
In addition, social justice demands that agrarian reform be implemented
in order to improve the quality of life of the rural population.
to organize and bargain collectively;
on child labour and forced labour;
of employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race or religion.
demand a gradual negotiation process, allowing each country to adopt appropriate
transitional policies. Progressive negotiations will allow better identification
of opportunities and threats faced by different economic sectors.
demand access to information, the establishment of mechanisms facilitating
collective bargaining, and democratic control over the action of transnational
corporations operating in the region, since these are the principal beneficiaries
of economic integration.
demand the adoption of a Charter of Social and Labour Rights by the countries
of the Americas.
workers produce all goods and services. Without our participation, the
negotiation and implementation of continental integration and of our countries’
involvement in international commerce are problematic.
Horizonte, May 13, 1997.