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A Free Trade Area of the Americas: Major Policy Issues and Status of Negotiations

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In 1994, 34 Western Hemisphere nations met at the first Summit of the Americas, envisioning a plan to complete a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by January 1, 2005. Nine years later, at the November 2003 Miami trade ministerial, the United States and Brazil, the FTAA co-chairs, brokered a compromise. It moved the FTAA away from the comprehensive, single undertaking principle, toward a two-tier framework comprising a set of "common rights and obligations" for all countries, combined with voluntary plurilateral arrangements with country benefits related to commitments. So far, defining this concept has proven elusive, causing the FTAA talks to stall and the January 1, 2005 deadline to be missed. At the fourth Summit of the Americas, held on November 4-5, 2005, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela blocked an effort to restart negotiations and Venezuela's accession as a full member to Mercosur in July 2006 may further harden resistence to resuming FTAA negotiations in the near future. This report will be updated.