Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 267 | Octubre 2003


Latin America

Another Kind of Development and Integration Is Possible

If another world is possible and so many around the globe are working to make it happen, another kind of continental integration and development, different from what the United States is proposing with the FTAA, is also possible, and we should do the impossible to bring it about.

Envío team

Concern about Latin America¡¦s development includes a dimension without which any project for this continent is unthinkable: the well-being of the entire population. Statistics from all countries in the region testify to an alarming increase in poverty, currently described as exclusion. There is an enormous gap between those who enjoy most of the wealth and the vast majority of the population, which lives below the poverty line. Looking at the prospect of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), we are extremely concerned to see that its proposals do not consider this serious situation and may well aggravate it in the future. For this reason, a seminar held in Quito, Ecuador, on July 10-13, with the participation of lay people, nuns and Jesuit priests involved in social promotion agreed on the urgent need to consider forms of American integration that include this social dimension, incorporating into the economic world the concept of a ¡§social mortgage¡¨ that John Paul II has spoken of.

The reflections that took place during the seminar point us in new directions that we urgently need to explore in order to make proposals and create alternatives that can be promoted by those of us who, upholding the ethical values proposed by Jesus of Nazareth, are concerned with the fate of our brothers and sisters.

Why are we against the FTAA?

Because the FTAA¡¦s make-up is strikingly asymmetrical. The points of departure of the economies of the 34 countries in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean¡Xexcluding Cuba¡Xare extremely unequal. Of the total GDP in the area covered by the FTAA, 79% corresponds to the United States, 5.9% to Canada, 4.7% to Brazil, 4.2% to Mexico and 2.5% to Argentina; most of the rest of our countries account for less than 1%. Therefore, the FTAA is being negotiated in the context of extremely unequal, asymmetrical power relations.

Because the FTAA negotiations are not transparent. The results of the negotiations remain a secret, and the text does not incorporate the various proposals presented by the continent¡¦s civil society organizations. In most of our countries, people have no access to information on what their governments are negotiating. The same is true for entire productive sectors (such as businesses and workers) that will be strongly affected by the FTAA. Nor are referendums planned to give people an opportunity to approve or reject the treaty.

Because the FTAA purports to be a pact among equals that are in fact unequal. We believe it is unjust for a pact to prescribe equal treatment for parties that are enormously unequal in technology, knowledge, capital and military power. This will undoubtedly lead to even greater inequality.

Because the FTAA is much more than a trade agreement. It is a plan for privatization¡Xespecially of public services and goods traditionally provided by the state¡Xand for opening markets and ensuring security for foreign investors, who are granted advantages over national investors. The FTAA proposals will undermine the governments¡¦ abilities to carry out specific development policies in economic and social areas. The FTAA is meant to stand above national Constitutions, which will limit the sovereignty of the nations that sign it.

Because the FTAA represents neo-protectionism in global trade. While using a liberalizing discourse, the United States is trying to support its no longer competitive sectors through subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers on the one hand and promote free trade for its competitive products on the other.

Because the FTAA omits essential elements. The treaty omits elements that are essential to the development of our nations: environment, labor and social policies, migration, gender-based economics and food security.

We want a new kind of integration in the Americas

A different kind of integration is possible. A new space is beginning to open in which it is becoming possible to imagine, consider and strategically plan for a new kind of integration that starts with people¡¦s interests and values and doesn¡¦t leave humanity¡¦s future in the hands of the market. Theoretically there are other possibilities and empirically there are many ways to integrate countries and blocs that are distinct from the current globalizing dynamic. An Alternative for the Americas is being developed by consensus.

Another integration is feasible. Turning this possible alternative into a reality depends on a largely political condition: the shaping of a social subject that can gather sufficient force to bring this about. It is no longer enough for each sector or each country to go it alone. The challenge is to create a multi-sector international social subject. While this subject is beginning to take shape, developing it is a long-term goal.

Ethical principles that can inspire this new integration

The globalization of human solidarity assumes that we inhabitants of the American continent will take responsibility for the common humanity of the peoples of America, that we will become sensitive to the existing inequalities and take responsibility for them, assuming the value of equity in international agreements and resisting the unjust asymmetry.

Globalizing solidarity in a situation marked by injustice and inequality implies:
* Giving preferential treatment to those in a weak social position, to balance the now so unequally placed social actors.

* Identifying the weak with the poor and making their life the criterion with which to evaluate both the solidarity mechanisms that are put into place and their results.

* Taking these steps in a conscientious way, both as individuals and as peoples and national states.

Humanizing the economy

The globalization of the economy must be subject to rules that guarantee the distribution of income within and between nations; the supremacy of human, economic, social and cultural rights and the rights of peoples; and the planet¡¦s sustainability.

The objectives that must guide any integration and be used to judge the results must be primarily social, and not just macroeconomic. The important question is not whether the economy is stable and growing, but whether people are living better, because economic growth is not necessarily accompanied by more and better jobs. In Mexico, for example, seven years into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the promises of more and better jobs have not materialized. In manufacturing, which is the main export sector, there are now 9.4% fewer jobs than before NAFTA. The export companies created jobs, but not as many as were lost. In addition, those created are bad jobs. Some 49% of the new wage posts created during NAFTA do not provide the benefits established by law.

Transparency in the negotiations and implementation

International agreements must be negotiated in the open with real participation by society, and ratified under real forms of consultation.

In addition to the globalization of human solidarity and the humanization of the economy, another essential element is recognition of the other as interlocutor in the negotiations to achieve a new integration. This requires:
* Seeing those who participate in the negotiation as cultural beings and social actors who have much to contribute to achieve a benefit common to all.

* Valuing cultural diversity and initial differences as enriching the process.

* Being aware that a successful negotiation is one that reaches a final position perceived as ¡§better¡¨ by all those who participate in it. In order to make such a result possible, all parties must shift their initial positions until becoming convinced that they have achieved a better condition because of the process.

* Accepting dialogue as the preferred instrument for reaching agreements rather than using force to impose opinions and results.

Challenges for the Society of Jesus
in the building of alternatives

Prioritize the issue of integration. The Society of Jesus worldwide must take seriously its role in regional integration processes in the context of globalization.

Contribute to creating viable alternatives. The Society must collaborate in the creation of a new social, ethical and political way of thinking that is a viable alternative to what is being proposed in the FTAA. This new way of thinking should grow out of a creative, participatory and inclusive process that focuses on and involves the poor. It is not enough to oppose. We have to use our educational and research institutions to provide alternative paths. It is not enough to be clear about what we don¡¦t want; we must clarify what we do want and ensure that it is viable.

In this collaborative work, the Society should not put itself in a leading role. Rather, it should join already existing processes, organizations and efforts.

Adjust the Society¡¦s own organization and integration. The FTAA requires us to consider another kind of integration among ourselves, which should be more inclusive of lay people, and our organizational relationship with the US Assistency and the Canadian Provinces.

Proposed lines of action

Within the Society of Jesus
* Make use of our institutions and various apostolic sectors to draft and promote an inclusive human ethics.

* Consider the various models of integration to define alternatives through the Association of Jesuit Universities of Latin America (AUSJAL) and the Research Centers of the Social Ministry of the Society of Jesus.

* Look for ways to participate in the Continental Social Alliance.

* Organize a full-time team to detail more deeply a new Latin American integration project.

Toward the Church
* Discuss the FTAA project with our bishops.

* Seek to raise awareness and share our vision on Latin American integration and the proposed free trade agreements with our local churches, bishops and the Latin American Bishop¡¦s Council (CELAM)

Toward Civil Society
* Serve as bridges between the grass roots and the academic and intellectual sectors.

* Incorporate information and analysis and encourage critical thinking on the FTAA at all levels of education in which we are already involved.

* Strengthen and accompany the movements that are generating development projects in each country.

* Seek ways to make these duly supported points of view visible in the media and public opinion, in order to influence decision-making that favors the population as a whole.ƒnƒnƒn

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