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Colección: Trends for a common future
Autor: Sidney Weintraub
Título: Technical Cooperation Needs for Hemispheric trade Negotiations

V. Specific Needs

At a forum bringing together institutions providing trade training held at Turin, Italy, sponsored by UNCTAD and the UN Staff College Forum, June 18-19, 1998, an official from UNCTAD referred to “technical assistance” for meeting immediate needs and “training” to empower individuals to be more effective in negotiations over a longer period. In this nomenclature, the previous two sections of this paper would be categorized as training and this section as technical assistance. This will be done by looking first at TC needs that cut across all negotiating groups and then specifically at each of the groups established for the FTAA.

A few words may be useful on the context within which this examination of TC is taking place. Much of the public discussion about the proposed FTAA focuses on the negotiating difficulties stemming from the lack of presidential fast-track authority in the United States, the desire of Brazil to widen free trade in South America before moving full-speed ahead on hemispheric free trade, and the economic uncertainty in Brazil in early 1999 and its possible effects on other LAC countries. While such commentary is legitimate, it omits the nature of the entire effort, which surely deserves to be called historic in hemisphere affairs. There have been other proposals in the past in favor of hemispheric unity, but these have been either of a Bolivarian nature in favor of hemispheric solidarity when other forces were pulling the countries apart, or hegemonic, as when the United States called for hemispheric free-trade in the last century. This time, when the hemispheric free-trade proposal was made, it was seen immediately as constructive; and two separate summit meetings of heads of state and government ratified the proposal as being feasible.

The reason for the change in attitude is that development policy in LAC has changed to emphasize the promotion of exports and the country making the hemispheric free-trade proposal, the United States, is the most important market for LAC exports. The FTAA negotiations are taking place in world of growing economic integration, as is evident in Western Europe and subregionally in the LAC area. A single free-trade undertaking in the Western Hemisphere would also arrest the trend toward separate subregional arrangements which complicate trade policies even as they augment trade among the members of these subregional groupings. A hemisphere of a single open market, one without a variety of subregional preferences, at a time when almost all the countries advocate export expansion is a worthy objective and this explains why it has garnered so much support in the entire region.

In past trade rounds, particularly those at a global level, the negotiating was essentially among the major industrial powers—the United States, the European Union, and Japan—and the representatives from smaller economies had little say about the end results. This time the smaller economies are part of the process. This TC effort is designed to make them more effective in this role and not to exclude them. This is thus a significant opportunity for them and for the hemisphere as a whole and this point—and not merely the negotiating complexities— deserves emphasis.