Students voice FTAA worries

Michael Lucarz

Several students traveled to Washington, D.C., last weekend in hopes of raising awareness on free trade issues. Students protested against the Free Trade Area of the Americas proposal, which would force the expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement into Central America, South America and the Caribbean Islands. Congress will vote on FTAA in 2005.

Opponents of FTAA argue that its passage would greatly diminish the already feeble social and economic stability of these regions and that NAFTA has already demonstrated its destructive effect on domestic agriculture and commerce, slashing the U.S. trade surplus by nearly $1.5 billion since 1993.

Since negotiations began to establish FTAA in 1994, speculation regarding the social equity of the organization has been widespread.

Junior Kristen Fanti and sophomore Christopher Lamar headed the trip to the conference, organized by relief organization Oxfam.

“We went with the intention of learning more about the issues surrounding FTAA,” Fanti said. “Part of the change initiative we’re now focused on is establishing something on campus.”

In order to raise student interest and involvement, Fanti and Lamar have organized a new group, United Students for Fair Trade.

“The reaction on campus has been wonderful,” Fanti said. “People are excited and right now we really want to educate the student body through our work.”

Last week students had the opportunity to listen to first-hand accounts of NAFTA’s effects on third-world agricultural economies. Honduras sweatshop workers spoke about work conditions and labor rights in their country while warning students of the impending threat of FTAA and other free trade agreements.

“Right now we are organizing letter campaigns and conferences to educate students about the Congressional vote taking place in 2005,” Fanti said. “We will be meeting every Friday to discuss new ideas.”