Trade and Economic Integration

The rapid integration of nations into the global economy is the hallmark of our age. Increased
international trade, investment, and production chains; and global information technologies and infrastructure
projects have changed our concepts of geography and of society.

Free trade agreements (FTAs) and neoliberal economic policies have increased trade and investment
flows but with grave social, environmental, and developmental costs. Increased global trade and investment
has spurred economic growth rates in some countries and communities, but left many others worse off
than before.

Some governments have formulated criticisms of the corporate-led integration, while others have allied
with business interests to extend it. Regardless of their governments’ stance, citizen organizations,
policy institutes, political parties, academic centers, and social movements have mobilized and joined
together to protest the social, economic, and cultural impacts of free trade integration—and to propose
alternative models in which the benefits are more widely shared and the costs are reduced.

By working to build North-South networks, we seek to broaden and deepen the analysis of the impact
of the current economic model and enable citizens to have greater influence in defining the course
of policies that affect their lives.

The Americas Policy Program does not oppose international trade and its regulation. But, along with
many other organizations committed to sustainable and equitable development, we oppose the NAFTA model
of free trade agreements currently being promoted by the U.S. government. These agreements lock in
asymmetries between developed and developing nations, and unfairly bundle U.S. demands for stringent
intellectual property laws, privileges for foreign investors, and privatization of basic services,
in exchange for access to the huge U.S. market. They have also led to massive job loss in the United
States by encouraging companies to move production to low-wage countries.

Activists, labor unions, and grassroots organizations now constitute an international movement to
oppose corporate-led economic integration. Citizens, and increasingly policymakers, throughout the
hemisphere are rethinking integration policy.

What are the alternatives? Clearly protectionism that benefits special interests is not the goal.
Since the mid-1990s policy analysts and organizations in civil society have been working to develop
alternative forms of economic integration that stress equitable development, cultural diversity, and
environmental sustainability, over an emphasis on increased trade flows.

Most have focused on critiquing and blocking the spread of U.S.-led economic integration initiatives,
such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Attention has also turned to analyzing the potential of
new subregional trade regimes, such as the Mercosur, the Bolivarian Alternative, and the South American
Community of Nations, and developing more equitable terms in multilateral trade and investment forums.
There is rising interest in fair trade initiatives that directly link consumers and producers, and
research into forms of integration that protect social and biological diversity. Related issues are
greater state involvement in the economy and the new popular movements to retain control of public
utilities such as water, telecommunications, and gas.

The Americas Policy Program works with citizen groups and organizations to move toward environmentally
sustainable and socially equitable models of hemispheric economic integration. To analyze, critique,
and protest policies and practices that currently threaten communities and the environments is fundamental.
Also essential is the formulation of policy options and new models that match global opportunities
with local and national needs.



United States:


Economic Policy Institute

Global Exchange

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Trade Observatory

Our World Is Not For Sale

Public Citizen/Global Trade Watch


Caribbean Policy and Development Center (CPDC)



Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano (Ceccam)

Comercio Justo

Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC)

Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas

Unión Nacional de Organizaciones Regionales Campesinas Autónomas (UNORCA)


Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE)


Amigos de la Tierra




Equal Exchange

Friends of the Earth

Hemispheric Social Alliance


Rainforest Action Network

Third World Network

Transnational Institute

Via Campesina