November 20,2003

Senator Comments on Opening of Free Trade Area of the Americas Meeting

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senator Max Baucus, Ranking Member of the Senate FinanceCommittee, released the following statement regarding the Eighth Ministerial meeting of theFree Trade Area of the Americas, which opened today in Miami, Florida:

“Today, trade ministers from 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere beganconsideration of draft text to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Already, manypeople have criticized the draft text as weak and unambitious. Like many of my colleagues, I toodesire a fully comprehensive and ambitious FTAA – one that is built on a strong set ofcommitments common to all participants and includes obligations in every negotiating sector.

From my perspective, I would like to see an agreement that is aggressive in removingmarket access barriers, especially in agriculture, and that promotes strong rules and capacitybuilding in labor and environment standards. Our producers, businesses, and workers deservenothing less.

On the whole, I am disappointed that we have not yet secured a consensus to moveforward in a comprehensive and ambitious way. I am further disappointed that the draft textdoes not make clear that the negotiating mandate extends to trade-related labor andenvironmental standards, as any text without these standards would violate the Trade Act and beunacceptable to Congress.

Still, I recognize that it is important to maintain forward progress. This can be afrustratingly slow process, but we must be patient and resolute. As Ambassador Zoellick himselfhas noted, this agreement will be judged on its final results.

An agreement that falls short of a comprehensive and ambitious set of commonobligations will face a difficult road toward congressional approval. Therefore, I urge allnegotiators to remain focused on the original goal of full hemispheric economic integration.”