Representatives from 34 American countries, (with the exception of Cuba) met this week in Lima, Peru to begin drafting a document to be officially presented to the new US Bush administration in the coming Quebec, Canada, three Americas IIIrd. presidential summit.
The Lima draft will then be considered and finalized in April, in a Buenos Aires meeting of Finance and Commerce Ministers from the 34 countries.
Basically the document will collect the continental stance regarding the coming Free Trade Association of the Americas, FTAA, negotiations to create a free trade area extending from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. An idea sponsored by the United States and officially launched by former president George Bush, father of current president George W. Bush, but which was stalled during the Clinton years because Congress refused to grant the "fast track" instrument to speed negotiations.
The document will stress the different size and development of the regional economies and debate rules and proceedings for the negotiations.
However, Argentine Foreign Affairs Minister Rodríguez Giavarini who will preside the Buenos Aires meeting, said that the FTAA hemispheric negotiations will be approached "with a Mercosur perspective, as has occurred from the start".
"This strategy has helped to strengthen and consolidate Mercosur, and besides it enhances our negotiation power vis á vis more powerful countries", emphasized Mr. Rodríguez Giavarini, who added that another issue in the agenda is the original timetable for the FTAA, concluding in 2005, which "we would like to advance", plus further discussions on links between "a hemispheric understanding, and sub-regional systems and multilateral integration agreements".