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FTAA Documents to be Released (?)

According to a Canadian newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, officials agreed on Saturday to allow the release of documents regarding the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. The article gives no information about what documents (or what they would be in regard to) would be released or when.
Documents regarding Free Trade Area of Americas to be made public

Original Author: Jules Richer of the Vancouver Sun

BUENOS AIRES (CP) - Documents concerning the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement will be made public, says International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew. Trade delegates from the 34 countries taking part in the Summit of the Americas later this month in Quebec City agreed Saturday to release the documents within the next few weeks, probably after the meeting of national leaders set for April 20-22.

"I sincerely think that trade negotiations will never be held the same way again," said Pettigrew. "I am very proud of our work on this front.

"I consider this to be a historic day for Canada, for the countries of our hemisphere, and for the future of trade negotiations."

Lobby groups and political parties, in Canada and elsewhere, have long called for greater transparency in the trade negotiations. Some warned that closed-door meetings would only allow for the interests of large, multi-national corporations to be represented.

Pettigrew said Canada did not have to make any concessions in order to have the documents released. He said the decision will also open the door to greater transparency at future World Trade Organization negotiations.

The documents, written in Spanish, will be translated into the hemisphere's three other languages - English, French, and Portuguese.

"As a Canadian, I insisted on translating them into French and my Brazilian colleague also insisted on having them available in Portuguese," he said.

American trade delegate Robert Zoellick confirmed that this decision is the first of its kind.

"It's an unprecedented move," said Zoellick. "A rough copy of a trade agreement has never been made public."

Meanwhile, the trade officials in Buenos Aires agreed to a timetable that would see the Free Trade Area of the Americas launched by December 2005. The delegates expect the details of the accord to be completed by January of that year.

"We are very satisfied with the agreement and with the dates," said Pettigrew.

The Bush administration in the United States had previously indicated it wanted an agreement "sooner rather than later," and Chile had proposed reaching a deal as soon as 2003.

But several countries, including Brazil and Venezuela in particular, appeared to favour more time to prepare key industries for wider competition.

"2005 is not too ambitious a date if the governments put their political will behind this," said Pedro Camargo, a representative from the Brazilian agriculture ministry. "We are ready for (the free trade area by 2005), as long as it's fair."



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