Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 203 | Junio 1998


Latin America

"We Need Fair Trade, Not Free Trade"

The Peoples of America Summit was held in Santiago, Chile, on April 15-18 as an alternative meeting to the Presidents of America Summit called by the United States to speed up continental free trade agreements. The following is the Final Declaration of the Peoples of America Summit.

Envío team

AS MEMBERS OF UNIONS, SOCIAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS OF WOMEN, indigenous, educators, environmentalists and parliamentarians meeting in the Peoples of America Summit, we have come here to express our common position in favor of an economic, social and cultural integration that can truly benefit the peoples of the Americas, and is not built upon the trade frameworks directed by corporations and applied by governments up to now. The priorities of our integration proposal are participatory democracy, social justice and cultural and ethnic diversity.

We have no reason to believe in the fulfillment of promises for social programs that the governments have signed. The majority of results from the cycle of United Nations Social Conferences have still to be implemented. The social accords of the First Summit of the Americas in Miami were also not implemented. We believe that the governments' proclaimed social concerns will continue to be used as bargaining chips in trade negotiations. In practice, these declarations contradict current policies, which produce the deterioration of public services and the continuation of programs to privatize education and social security in the majority of countries on the continent.

We are convinced that America does not need free trade. It needs fair trade, regulated investments and consumer consciousness that support our national development projects. We believe that the free trade propaganda is in contradiction with the trade blockade against Cuba.

We reject the antidemocratic character of agreements such as the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). Representative organizations of different segments of civil society on the continent are excluded from this process. Not even parliamentarians are being consulted, thus restricting even further the limits of representative democracy. We do not accept that agreements of this nature, which have negative repercussions on the whole of the population, continue to be signed to the detriment of our peoples.

We demand that fundamental renunciations of our economic sovereignty—which the concretizing of accords such as FTAA or the Multilateral Investment Agreement (MIA) would imply—be decided finally and directly by the citizens of America, through plebiscite mechanisms, preceded by fully informed national debates.

We call the attention of the governments to the priority that our peoples grant to themes that are not considered in the official conferences.
We particularly underscore the themes we have debated in the Peoples' Summit: social, labor, environmental and civil human rights; the original peoples; sustainable development; socioeconomic integration alternatives; peasants and agrarian reform, and ethics in the political process.

All these issues were amply discussed and debated by the representatives and members of the most representative organizations of civil society of all the countries in the hemisphere, who came together around ten thematic forums. Our debates reflected the richness, diversity and plurality of our peoples, as well as our capacity to present proposals.

With an inter-sectoral criterion, the forums analyzed the following themes: globalization and integration, development and sustainability, investments, employment and living standards, and follow-up to this Summit. We pledged to work for the demands that came out of the forums and to present their conclusions, as well as the plan of action that we have agreed upon, to the governmental authorities of our respective countries.

Our Summit's objective is to stress the realities that the official encounters insist on ignoring: the growing unemployment; the informal sector; the increasing precariousness of labor relations; the intensification of labor rhythms and shrinking of salaries; the feminization and "childization" of poverty, accompanied by forms of superexploitation such as forced labor, child labor and discrimination against women; the continual degradation of the environment and of the quality of life of our peoples; the increase in migration and in xenophobia; non-recognition of the rights of migrant workers; the ongoing and mounting violation of the rights of indigenous peoples to life, land and their cultural values; the concentration of rural property, increased conflicts over land ownership, assassinations of peasant activists and impunity of the criminals; and urban violence, public insecurity and social exclusion.

The Peoples of America Summit was a milestone in the process of pulling together the hemisphere to construct a common strategy in the face of the neoliberal trade integration process. We have called it the Continental Social Alliance.

The Peoples of America Summit reaffirms that continental integration must be built on principles of participatory democracy, equality, social justice, respect for cultural and ethnic diversity and ecologically and socially sustainable development.

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