Last week saw the rather violent protests over the FTAA summit. I agree that the Free Trade Area of the Americas does indeed have the potential for disastrous consequences not only here but abroad as well, possibly allowing for the overexploitation of foreign labor and resources among many other things. But as it stands, that’s all it is, potential. What the FTAA will entail is as of yet undecided and unknown, and while there is indeed a chance it could be disastrous, there is also a chance it may prove to actually be something beneficial, giving a much needed uplift to the economy both here and abroad.
It is a closed meeting, but every single point there is to be made about the potential dangers of the treaty has already been made. I’m well aware that corporate interests do have a lot of influence over these proceedings, but I don’t believe in this us versus them mentality that keeps painting corporations as monolithic juggernauts bend on global domination. At the end of the day, regardless of how much pressure and maneuvering there may be on behalf of the corporations, it takes at least two sides to sign an agreement, and I tend to give credit to the representatives of South American nations. I don’t believe anyone will sign an agreement that will rape their land and destroy their people, no matter how much power we attribute to the corporations. We’re dealing with agreements that have to be approved by entire nations. In fact, it is because of the amount of dissent currently seen all over South America (which, ironically enough, I don’t see much U.S. press coverage of) that I doubt the FTAA will get passed to begin with.
My disagreement with the protests stems from the fact that protesting is a very powerful tool, but like most large tools, they serve very simple functions. All a protest conveys is a great sense of disapproval and to raise public awareness. Yet the FTAA protesters are not anti-FTAA, they are instead trying to convey a more complex message regarding the various points they want representatives to keep in mind while drafting the agreement. They are using protests in lieu of open hearings as a constant reminder to officials of their points.
If the FTAA existed and even a fraction of the problems the protesters fear was a reality, then yes, by all means I would encourage the protests and the need for change. But as it stands, all they are doing is raising pre-emptive hell, and while they may have valid points, they are lost in blare of protest.
Endre Enyedy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.