The Free Trade Area of the Americas

If Australia does secure a free trade agreement with the United States, then it will obviously be well placed to become a fully fledged member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and perhaps, into the future, the extension of NAFTA, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

FTAA is a regional trade agreement of humungous proportions comprising 34 ‘democratic’ western hemisphere nations. This means Cuba doesn’t get an invite, not that Fidel Castro will be losing too much sleep over this me thinks. Venezuela is also showing little enthusiasm for the deal scheduled to take effect in 2005. Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, who is not likely to feature on Washington’s christmas card list any time soon, has made it clear that so long as he is president, Venezuela’s future does not lie with FTAA. In an interview with Reuters, Chavez declared that: “Venezuela is on the side of the people and we propose a new integration system that is definitely not the FTAA which, as it has been put forward, is a perverse mechanism that would be a death order for the future of the region”. Chavez may find an ally in Lula da Silva, the Brazilian leader, and if he does, FTAA may falter before it really gets started. The key question is whether, given the precarious state of both these economies, either can afford to defy the hegemonic power of the US.