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The ALBA proposal gives priority to Latin American integration and negotiation in sub-regional blocks, opening new spaces for consultation to deepen our knowledge of our positions and identify areas of common interest that allow the constitution of strategic alliances and present common positions in the process. negotiation.
What is the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean?
The Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA) is a different integration proposal. While the FTAA responds to the interests of transnational capital and pursues the absolute liberalization of trade in goods and services and investments, the ALBA emphasizes the fight against poverty and social exclusion and, therefore, expresses the interests of the Latin American peoples.
ALBA is based on the creation of mechanisms to create cooperative advantages among nations that allow compensating the existing asymmetries between the countries of the hemisphere. It is based on the cooperation of compensatory funds to correct the disparities that put weak countries at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the first powers. For this reason, the ALBA proposal gives priority to Latin American integration and negotiation in sub-regional blocks, opening new spaces for consultation to deepen our knowledge of our positions and identify areas of common interest that allow for the establishment of strategic alliances and present common positions. in the negotiation process. The challenge is to prevent the dispersion in the negotiations, preventing the sister nations from falling apart and being absorbed by the maelstrom with which they have been pressing for a quick agreement for the FTAA.
ALBA is a proposal to build consensus to rethink integration agreements in order to achieve endogenous national and regional development that eradicates poverty, corrects social inequalities and ensures a growing quality of life for peoples. ALBA's proposal adds to the awakening of consciousness that is expressed in the emergence of a new political, economic, social and military leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean. Today more than ever, Latin American and Caribbean unity must be relaunched. ALBA, as a Bolivarian and Venezuelan proposal, joins the struggle of movements, organizations and national campaigns that multiply and articulate throughout the entire continent against the FTAA. It is, in short, a manifestation of the historic decision of the progressive forces of Venezuela to demonstrate that Another America is Possible.
How is endogenous development in ALBA?
The neoliberal notion of access to markets is limited to putting measures to reduce the tariff and eliminate barriers to trade and investment. Free trade understood in these terms only benefits the countries with a higher degree of industrialization and development. In fact, scientific studies abound in which it is irrefutably demonstrated that the application of the current patterns of globalization and its hemispheric or regional expressions has ruined the aspirations of a true endogenous development in any of the countries of the continent. .
The major integration agreements should, on the contrary, be subordinated to the objectives of endogenous development. The scant diversification of the regional offer that exists today, since the FTAA cannot be the opportunity to achieve a type of development in which economic growth is harmonized with a growing quality of life and degree of well-being for our peoples.
Investments and exports may grow, but if these are based on the maquiladora industry and the massive exploitation of the workforce, without a doubt, it will not be able to generate the multiplier effect on the sectoral linkages, there will not be a multiplier effect on the agricultural and industrial sectors, much less will be able to generate the quality jobs that are needed to defeat poverty and social exclusion.
Consequently, an alternative proposal based on solidarity is urgently needed. It is about helping the weakest countries overcome the handicaps that separate them from the most powerful countries in the hemisphere. And this not only depends on changes in the prevailing competition conditions, but also on solidarity between the peoples and their governments of the continent when it comes to correcting these asymmetries. Only in this way can a free trade area be an opportunity for all (a win-win alliance).
Agriculture in ALBA: much more than a commodity-producing sector
The demand for reduction of protectionist policies and massive subsidies granted by the main industrialized countries cannot become a general demand for the liberalization of trade in agricultural products. For many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, agricultural activity is essential for the survival of the nation itself. The living conditions of millions of peasants and indigenous people would be greatly affected if a flood of imported agricultural goods occurs, even in cases where the subsidy does not exist.
It must be made clear that agricultural production is much more than the production of a commodity. Rather, it is a way of life. It is the basic foundation for the preservation of cultural options, it is a form of occupation of the territory, it defines modalities of relationship with nature, it has to do directly with the critical issues of food security and sovereignty. Therefore, it cannot be treated like any other economic activity or any product.
Article 305 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela indicates: “The state will promote sustainable agriculture as a strategic basis for comprehensive rural development, and consequently guarantee the food security of the population; understood as the sufficient and stable availability of food at the national level, timely and permanent access to these by consumers.
Food security should be achieved by developing and favoring domestic agricultural production, understood as that from agricultural, livestock, fishing and aquaculture activities. The production of food is of national interest and fundamental to the economic and social development of the Nation. To this end, the State will dictate financial, commercial, technology transfer, land tenure, infrastructure, manpower training, and other measures that are necessary to achieve strategic levels of self-sufficiency.
In addition, it will promote actions within the framework of the national and international economy to compensate for the disadvantages inherent to agricultural activity ”. An important part of the poverty and marginalization of our peoples is concentrated in the population that lives in rural areas that subsists based on agricultural activity or activities around agriculture.
This population is finally the most punished with the initial imbalance for the negotiation of agriculture and it would be more so if the aspects that harm it the most are excluded from the negotiation.
The food security enjoyed by the developed countries of the hemisphere, which developing countries today are denied by wanting to limit the scope for our policies, is the result of half a century of policies of systematic support to agriculture with which they get distortion in prices in world markets. If even today such support were to cease, the playing field would still remain uneven: The infrastructure and the productive and technological apparatus established and operated in good part thanks to the disbursements of these policies still leave us at a disadvantage.
For all these reasons, the situation regarding the negotiations on agriculture for the FTAA constitutes another object of concern of great importance for Venezuela.
For the beginning of the negotiations in 1998, the ministerial declaration of San José clearly established among the objectives of the negotiations for this important sector of production that of “eliminating the subsidies to agricultural exports that affect trade in the hemisphere”, and to "identify other practices that distort trade in agricultural products, including those that have an effect equivalent to that of agricultural export subsidies and subject them to greater discipline"
It was also agreed by consensus on the same occasion that “Negotiations would start simultaneously in all thematic areas. The initiation, conduct and outcome of the FTAA negotiations should be treated as parts of a single undertaking that includes mutually agreed rights and obligations ”
However, from the beginning of the negotiation of the texts for the draft treaty, the United States expressed its reluctance to negotiate within the framework of the FTAA subsidies for exports of agricultural products and domestic aid that distort trade and trade. production of agricultural products, including measures with effects equivalent to export subsidies.
The double standard of the great powers is expressed there, which demand that developing countries renounce the use of public policies to promote the development of their productive apparatuses while, on the other hand, they apply ruinous subsidies in favor of their productive apparatuses. The insistence on such a position, clearly contradicts the principles and objectives established to undertake the formation of the FTAA, principles and objectives that we share and encouraged us to participate in the negotiation.
This issue was the subject of a great debate at the last Ministerial Meeting held in Quito, in whose declaration all the countries finally recognized “the importance of agriculture for the economies of the region, whose comprehensive and non-discriminatory treatment in the FTAA negotiations will contribute to generate employment to reduce poverty and promote social stability ”, for which they reaffirmed“ the hemispheric commitment to the elimination of export subsidies that affect trade in agricultural products in the Hemisphere and the development of discipline to be adopted for the treatment of all other practices that distort trade in agricultural products, including those that have effects equivalent to agricultural export subsidies ", noting in particular" that our respective evaluation, by country or group of countries, of the results of Market access negotiations in agriculture in the FTAA will depend on progress so that we manage to reach the other issues that are part of the agricultural agenda. "
This approach was ratified in a practical way by this Trade Negotiations Committee at its meeting in Puebla when it instructed the Negotiating Group on Agriculture to “intensify the debates on all the topics on its agenda, particularly those referring to export subsidies and all the other practices that distort the trade of agricultural products, including those that have effects equivalent to the subsidies to agricultural exports, without any exception and without prejudging the results, in accordance with the mandates of the declarations of Buenos Aires and Quito "
From the development of the meetings held since November of last year, it can be clearly deduced the insistence of the refusal of the United States to commit itself not to reintroduce subsidies in agricultural exports, to work on the regulation of credit conditions, guarantees of credits and insurance programs for agricultural exports and to work for the reduction and discipline of internal aid to agriculture.
Meanwhile, for the negotiation on the elimination of agricultural tariffs, peremptory deadlines have been established that have forced many countries to make a significant effort to comply with them. Unfortunately, the countries that have complied with these offer deliveries on time to demonstrate their willingness to negotiate agriculture today feel mocked by the refusal of the United States to eliminate the subsidies that they grant to their agriculture under the FTAA.
The situation indicated shows a great imbalance of great magnitude in the negotiation and a perspective of imbalance for its end, if stagnation persists in the central aspects mentioned. An imbalance of this nature is not acceptable. It is not acceptable for agriculture to be limited exclusively to the elimination of tariffs by developing countries while the major powers refuse to eliminate subsidies and internal aid.
As is known, the United States allocates hundreds of billions of dollars annually to sustain its exports and the production of its agriculture, causing strong distortions in the price of agricultural products in world markets. Even if tariff barriers are removed for Latin American exports, it is impossible to compete with these subsidized prices. In this way, effective access for Latin American countries to the markets of the hemisphere is impeded or hindered. Subsidized products compete unfairly in our own domestic markets and the advantage they already have is greatly enhanced by eliminating our tariffs. This is how we are deprived of markets in third countries for agricultural products that we could otherwise export.
Our countries lack the magnitude of financial resources that developed countries have to support agriculture; what we have are policy instruments to combat the perverse effects of international price distortions, instruments that we are being asked to eliminate with market access negotiations.
Only the enormous contrast in the size of the economies that make up the continent puts us at a disadvantage. While the size of our markets means very little for the expansion of agriculture in developed countries, only a small fraction of increase or diversion of exports to our countries means a price shock and the collapse of the possibility of sustenance for a part important part of our population.
If developed countries do not want to eliminate subsidies and measures with equivalent effects and do not want to substantially reduce and discipline aid for fear of the loss of their markets in the world, outside the continent, and propose to do so only after negotiating it in the multilateral sphere We cannot be asked to give them greater access to our markets in the hemisphere now. To be equitable, there is no other way than to also negotiate market access for agricultural products in the same multilateral forum, and only after we fully know the true scope of what the agricultural powers of the World have agreed on the elimination of their subsidies and measures of equivalent effect and on the reduction and disciplining of its internal aid, we will be able to determine with responsibility to what extent we will be able to grant greater access to our markets.
Intellectual Property Rights or People's Rights to Good Quality Food and Medicines?
Intellectual property is another of the issues in which the opposition of interests between the large international corporations and the poor countries of the South is most clearly expressed, especially the rural and indigenous populations.
By appealing to what were called “trade-related matters,” a broad regime for the protection of intellectual property was established in conditions that were very disadvantageous for the countries of the South. Despite the initial resistance, the countries of the North managed to impose a mandatory and global regime for the protection of intellectual property according to their demands, based on proposals made by the pharmaceutical transnationals.
In the asymmetric relations that exist today between the industrialized countries of the North and the South, the advantages of the North lie precisely in the scientific-technological areas. The international regime for the definition and protection of intellectual property is aimed at accentuating this imbalance. It protects what the strongest countries have advantages in, while, basically, it leaves unprotected what the countries and peoples of the South have an undoubted advantage in: in the genetic diversity of their territories and in the traditional knowledge of the peoples. peasants and aborigines.
Before these negotiations, more than 50 countries did not have legal regimes for the protection of patents on pharmaceutical products, with which their internal markets could be supplied by generic drugs at prices much lower than those offered by the companies that own the patents.
Comparison of drug prices in India with countries in which there is pharmaceutical patent protection indicates that prices are up to 41 times higher in these. India's pharmaceutical industry is a flourishing industry of more than 20,000 companies, producing high-quality medicines accessible to millions of low-income people and also playing an important role in generating employment.
This has begun to change in India and in the rest of the world in an accelerated and radical way. The intellectual property agreements of the World Trade Organization oblige all countries after a grace period for the “least developed” countries to establish patent regimes that guarantee the strict protection of intellectual property.
So the days of generic drugs are numbered. As a consequence of the monopoly rights granted by such agreements, pharmaceutical companies can eliminate competition and charge prices beyond the ability of millions of people to pay.
Based on various studies, it has been calculated that not only significant price increases would occur as a result of the introduction of patents, but also a notorious reduction in consumption: large sectors of the population would be excluded from access to commercial medicines.
The case of Egypt is illustrative: the introduction of patents on medicines led to price increases of five to six times, compared to medicines without patents. There will also be a trend towards the bankruptcy of medium and small pharmaceutical companies and an increase in the levels of monopolization of activity by large transnationals.
Currently 80% of patents on genetically modified foods are in the hands of 13 multinationals, and the 5 largest agrochemical companies control almost the entire global seed market.
As a consequence of the establishment of patents on various ways of life, and the appropriation / expropriation of peasant / community knowledge by large transnational seed and agrochemical companies, peasant production patterns are rapidly changing on a global scale. The peasants are becoming less and less autonomous, more and more dependent on the purchase of expensive inputs from the transnationals.
The “freedom of trade” increasingly imposed by the interests of these transnationals on peasants around the world, is leading to a reduction in the genetic variety of many of the main food crops.
This reduction in genetic diversity, associated with an engineering vision of agriculture, based on an extreme factory-like control over each phase of the production process -with genetically manipulated seeds and the intensive use of agrochemicals- drastically reduces the self-adaptive capacity and regeneration of ecological systems.
Product of this global biopiracy legal regime is the immense range of patents - based on the unacknowledged expropriation of the knowledge and / or resources of others that have been granted. Many of these patents have been particularly scandalous, such as the one for active ingredients of the neem tree that have been widely used for many different applications in India for hundreds of years.
As has been seen in the spectrum of critical issues for the present and future of humanity that are being affected by the agreements on the right to intellectual property, it is one of the most dynamic axes of concentration of power and accentuation of inequalities that characterizes the current hegemonic tendencies of globalization.
How to face the liberalization, deregulation and privatization of services?
In the FTAA a set of multilateral rules is proposed that, apparently, will order international trade in services. But what is really intended is the progressive liberalization, deregulation and privatization of essential services for society and that imply an obligation of states and governments with their citizens.
This liberalization process would cover the entire wide range of services that we can imagine in terms of health, education, social security, drinking water, transportation, mail, municipal services, environment, culture, natural resources, etc. In this way, the intervention of the State would be restricted once and for all through governmental measures that regulate the trade in services: from the limits to labor legislation and consumer protection, including regulations, guidelines, subsidies, qualifications and guidelines. to grant permits; up to government limits on market access, economic needs or measures on cultural content.
Once again, the free market thesis is manifested here, which postulate that a greater opening of markets would enhance the possibilities of developing countries to improve the quantity and quality of services that their citizens demand.
The recent history of Venezuela and Latin America is one of a violent wave of privatization of services such as aeronautical transport, telecommunications or electricity. The consequences of this delivery of services to the market are visible to all: monopolistic or oligopolistic practices and the consequent rise in prices and decrease in quality; destruction of thousands of jobs; and, dismantling and squandering of public resources in rigged privatization processes.
The FTAA seeks to maximize these liberalization and privatization processes by also including essential services that represent an obligation of the State to its citizens. These services would be provided by private companies and would transform all citizens into simple consumers who, as they did not have the resources to pay for these services, would be excluded from their consumption and enjoyment.
The main beneficiaries of liberalizing services in the FTAA would be large multinationals that would turn public services around the world into private markets. And the losers would be the usual ones: the most impoverished sectors with maximum social exclusion. Large for-profit companies would access public resources and succeed in dismantling existing regulations. For developing countries this would translate into the complete and absolute dismantling of public services.
The severe criticism of the poor quality of public services has achieved a dwarf echo in an important part of society. Deceived, it accepts that the services in the hands of the state would improve if they were delivered to the market. No one denies the need to improve the efficiency of public services, but the panacea is not their liberalization and privatization. The solution lies in defeating the tax evaders who appropriate the financial resources necessary to improve their quality and, of course, improve their management to ensure massive access under equal conditions. What is unacceptable is that their deteriorating situation is manipulated to justify privatization processes that facilitate the appropriation of essential public services for transnationals.
These dire consequences are hidden in a practice according to which the liberalization of services would unleash greater competitiveness that would contribute to improving the efficiency in the provision of services; a higher degree of development of the same and finally savings in favor of consumers. But after more than a decade of openness, liberalization and privatization, it is clear that the objective is to generate more profits for large transnational corporations that have appropriated these services on a global scale at the cost of excluding public services from Thousands of people around the world who cannot pay what is required to have access to them.
The Bolivarian Government of Venezuela opposes these processes of liberalization, deregulation and privatization that limit the capacity of the state and the government to design and execute policies in defense of the right of our peoples to have access to essential services of good quality and good prices.
With the argument that subsidies distort market prices and that it should be market mechanisms –that is, the laws of supply and demand- that set the price level, the FTAA proposal proposes liberalization and privatization of public services.
Any of the three cases would mean the elimination of millions of people from the enjoyment of essential public services for human survival.
For the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, public services are to satisfy the needs of the people, not for trade and economic benefit. Therefore, its benefit cannot be governed by criteria of profitability but of social interest.
In fact, they represent one of the most significant social rights achieved by peoples throughout history and are essential to correct social inequalities. Consequently, the provision of public services should be governed by the social needs of the individual and not by their ability to pay.
The liberalization of services in the FTAA would have catastrophic consequences if the application of "National Treatment" is required. This means that transnationals should be given the same preferences that are granted to small companies and national cooperatives. No measure may be issued that gives preferences to local production or that discriminates against foreign companies. Another aspect to which much attention must be paid is that of "Market access" since here countries are obliged not to put any type of barrier to the entry into the national market of any foreign service provider in the sectors that have liberalized. Thus, governments will not be able to implement measures that condition trade in services. The transnational companies want to lead us to play on their own court so that, instead of demanding sovereignty and justice in the provision of essential services for the population, we do not add to facilitating “access to markets” as if it were the cry of our people.
Compensatory funds for the correction of asymmetries in ALBA
For the construction of ALBA, Venezuela proposes the creation of Compensatory or Structural Convergence Funds in order to significantly reduce the asymmetries in the levels of development between nations and between productive sectors, assigning to said mechanism precise social and economic goals, well-established deadlines and follow-up mechanisms.
This mechanism requires an initial definition to measure the existing asymmetries in the region. Venezuela proposes the beginning of the debate on the basis that identifying a specific definition of “smaller economy” will facilitate the realization of one or more strategies to overcome the obstacles generated by the existing asymmetries. That is why a group of economic and social variables has been identified that seek to distinguish in a non-discretionary way the economies that need to be assisted in order to compete under favorable conditions for the countries in the free trade area.
Thus, in the construction of ALBA, the differences in the levels of development and the size of the participating economies, in addition to being raised for the reasons stated above as a matter of the highest priority, should include:
* The generation of instruments through which it is sought not only that “developing” countries can access ALBA, but also mainly those countries can improve their productive and competitive conducts, reducing the disparities that characterize their internal economic functioning and the great distances that separate it from the great developed economies of the hemisphere.
* A clear definition regarding the economies that will be subject to special and differential treatment. Hasta ahora la referencia a “los niveles de desarrollo y el tamaño” se basa en el concepto de “Economías más pequeñas”, el cual remite a la dimensión de los participantes, sin que estén definidos los criterios que se utilizaran al respecto. En el ALBA, dicha dimensión y el acceso o no al trato especial y diferenciado estaría determinada por variable como población, superficie, producción global y dotación de recursos. Pero también incluirá otros indicadores referidos al grado de desarrollo y a limitaciones estructurales de las economías: Composición de las exportaciones y vulnerabilidad externa; nivel de desarrollo industrial; ingreso per-cápita promedio y variaciones respecto a ese promedio; pobreza y pobreza extrema, etc.
* Una identificación de trato especial y diferenciado no solo hacia la totalidad de cada una de las economías, sino también hacia el interior de cada una de ellas, de modo que dicho trato pueda dirigirse a las regiones y sectores que más lo necesitan. De esa manera los recursos que se canalizan para atender a las disparidades se vincularían directamente con los sectores intra-nacionales a los que irían dirigidos, asegurando de esta forma mayores niveles de eficiencia y transparencia, así como una reducción de las trabas administrativas asociada al uso de dichos recursos proveniente de los mencionaos mecanismos.
A diferencia del ALCA donde lo que esta previsto es una mayor profundización de las diferencias que hoy existen, la propuesta del ALBA incluye propuestas y mecanismos concretos para superar las grandes disparidades entre los países y el interior de muchos de ellos. La atención a este problema ocupa un lugar predominante en la naturaleza de este proyecto alternativo de integración latinoamericana y caribeña.
PRINCIPIOS RECTORES DEL ALBA
De la Integración Neoliberal a la Alternativa Bolivariana para América Latina y el Caribe “jamás hubo en América de la independencia a acá, asunto que requiera más sensatez, ni obligue a más vigilancia, ni pida examen más claro y minucioso, que el convite que los Estados Unidos potentes, repletos de productos invendibles, y determinados a extender sus dominios en América, hacen a las naciones americanas de menos poder…”. José Martí
1. La integración neoliberal prioriza la liberalización del comercio y las inversiones.
2. La Alternativa Bolivariana para América Latina (ALBA) es una propuesta que centra su atención en la lucha contra la pobreza y la exclusión social.
3. En la propuesta del ALBA se le otorga una importancia crucial a los derechos humanos, laborales y de la mujer, a la defensa del ambiente y a la integración física
4. En el ALBA, la lucha contra las políticas proteccionistas y los ruinosos subsidios de los países industrializados no puede negar el derecho de los países pobres de proteger a sus campesinos y productores agrícolas.
5. Para los países pobres donde la actividad agrícola es fundamental, las condiciones de vida de millones de campesinos e indígenas se verían irreversiblemente afectados si ocurre una inundación de bienes agrícolas importados, aún en los casos en los cuales no exista subsidio.
6. La producción agrícola es mucho más que la producción de una mercancía. Es la base para preservar opciones culturales, es una forma de ocupación del territorio, define modalidades de relación con la naturaleza, tiene que ver directamente con la seguridad y autosuficiencia alimentaria. En estos países la agricultura es, más bien, un modo de vida y no puede ser tratado como cualquier otra actividad económica.
7. ALBA tiene que atacar los obstáculos a la integración desde su raíz, a saber:
to. La pobreza de la mayoría de la población;
b. Las profundas desigualdades y asimetrías entre países
c. Intercambio desigual y condiciones inequitativas de las relaciones internacionales
d. El peso de una deuda impagable
and. La imposición de las políticas de ajuste estructural del FMI y el BM y de las rígidas reglas de la OMC que socavan las bases de apoyo social y político.
f. Los obstáculos para tener acceso a la información, el conocimiento y la tecnología que se derivan de los actuales acuerdos de propiedad intelectual; y,
g. Prestar atención a los problemas que afectan la consolidación de una verdadera democracia, tales como la monopolización de los medios de comunicación social
8. Enfrentar la llamada Reforma del Estado que solo llevó a brutales procesos de desregulación, privatización y desmontaje de las capacidades de gestión pública.
9. Como respuesta a la brutal disolución que éste sufrió durante más de una década de hegemonía neoliberal, se impone ahora el fortalecimiento del Estado con base en la participación del ciudadano en los asuntos públicos,
10. Hay que cuestionar la apología al libre comercio per se, como si sólo esto bastara para garantizar automáticamente el avance hacia mayores niveles de crecimiento y bienestar colectivo.
11. Sin una clara intervención del Estado dirigida a reducir las disparidades entre países, la libre competencia entre desiguales no puede conducir sino al fortalecimiento de los más fuertes en perjuicio de los más débiles.
12. Profundizar la integración latinoamericana requiere una agenda económica definida por los Estados soberanos, fuera de toda influencia nefasta de los organismos internacionales.
Alternativa Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América