The Summit of the Americas that wasn’t supposed to be about trade, ended up being mainly about trade. While government delegates and participants from various civil society sectors (such as NGOs, academics and the private sector) met at the two-day Monterrey meeting to discuss issues of social development, democratic governance and economic growth with equity, the final result, according to one delegate from the Canadian-based Rights and Democracy, was the most neo-liberal Declaration ever issued at any Summit of the Americas.

Yes, even more so than the 2001 Declaration of Quebec City.

Lost in the big hoopla of the first Martin-Bush meeting (which was far from being as successful as Paul Martin would like us to believe) was the fact that 32 other heads of state were meeting a mere two months after the Miami FTAA meeting. While leaders of the Americas, especially Canada and the United States, constantly reiterate their commitment to social development and democracy, the same old policies that have plagued Latin Americaâe(TM)s economies are advocated through the Declaration: trade liberalization through the FTAA.

The dissident voices from this agenda came from the usual suspects: Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela, Lucio Gutierrez’ Ecuador, Lula Da Silva’s Brazil and Nelson Kirchner’s Argentina. However, with the exception of Venezuela, which insisted on entering a reservation on the commitment to conclude the FTAA talks by the set deadline of 2005, no leader pulled a “Cancun” in this meeting.

The Brazilian President did point out that, “It [the Washington Consensus] was a perverse model that wrongly separated the economic from the social, put stability against growth and separated responsibility and justice. Economic stability turned its back on social justice.”

As for Chavez, who was certainly the star attraction in the eyes of the Spanish-speaking media, he had to defend himself against a series of U.S. verbal and tactical attacks throughout the Summit. George W. Bush attacked him in his opening ceremonies address when he stated that “our unity and support of democratic institutions, constitutional processes and basic liberties gives hope and strength to those struggling to preserve their God-given rights, whether in Venezuela, or Haiti or Bolivia.”

The U.S. delegation then led the charge in trying to commit the Americas to exclude from the OAS any country whose government proves to be corrupted and thus guilty of poor governance. Most countries rejected the language, arguing that the criteria used to declare a government corrupt were too subjective and created the possibility for the U.S. to use the clause for mere political purposes.

The Martin-Bush Summit

Reading the Canadian media (which sent four times as many journalists to Monterrey as they did for last September’s WTO Meeting in Cancun), you would think that the Monterrey Summit was all about Paul Martin and George Bush.

In all honesty, it is true that the Monterrey Summit was a crucial test for Paul Martin in his first international gathering in his new role. The Canadian business sector wanted him to mend the Canada-U.S. relationship to pave the way to a deeper economic integration and an eventual harmonization of foreign, trade and eventually monetary policy. He also had the option of listening and helping Latin American countries to face the social development and democratic governance issues in their own way rather than through the U.S.-led Washington Consensus recipe.

Which one was it to be?

Starting his day with a hearty breakfast with the Leader of the Free World┢, Paul Martin reported back to the Canadian media claiming to have wrestled his way to some important concessions in his morning discussion:

1. A commitment (in fact a letter of intent) that the Canadian government will be notified when the U.S. decides to deport a Canadian citizen to a third country which, according to Foreign Minister Bill Graham, will prevent other situations similar to Maher Arar’s.

Wrong, says Arar’s U.S. lawyer Steven Watt, who calls the agreement mere “window dressing.” In a CBC interview, he pointed out that “in Maher’s case, he was afforded the right of access, he saw counsel, but that didn’t stop him being removed to Syria.”

2. Martin also claimed victory in obtaining assurance that Canadian corporations will have the opportunity of bidding for “rebuilding” contracts in occupied Iraq.

In addition to the obvious unethical character of war profiteering, which seems to elude our Prime Minister and private sector, it should also be mentioned that it is the U.S. intention to also allow German and French corporations to bid on these contracts as well.

Not a very convincing win in either case.

Then came meetings with some Latin American leaders, including Brazilian President Lula Da Silva. Martin has agreed with him on the need to tackle poverty via social development, but both men agreed to disagree on the question of the FTAA. Martin did reiterate his faith in trade liberalization, which was not shared by either Lula, or by Nelson Kirchner, whom Martin also met with.

At this Summit, Paul Martin was involved in a tricky balancing act: trying to restore Canada-U.S. relations — the number one objective of the Canadian private sector and right wing think tanks — and working in a multilateral way with the growing dissatisfaction of Latin America to find an alternative to trade liberalization as a cure-all medicine to fight poverty and exclusion.

Martin seems to have chosen his camp. However, the promised Canada-U.S. Summit, which should be held within two months in Washington, will provide more clues on the length to which the Canadian government is ready to go to please the Bush administration.

Summary of the Declaration of Nuevo Léon

  • Promotion of sound macroeconomic policies, prudent fiscal and monetary policies, appropriate rate exchange rate regimes, appropriate public debt management, diversification of the economy and improvement of competitiveness;
  • Emphasis on the importance of the private sector in achieving economic objectives;
  • Commitments to simplify time and cost of establishing businesses;
  • Reaffirmation of the commitment of the Doha Agenda;
  • Commitment to respect the established timetable of the FTAA negotiations;
  • Commitment to strengthen property rights and expand the use of property as collateral to obtain loans;
  • Reiteration of the empowerment of women and their full and equal participation in the development of societies;
  • Commitment to foster policies that strengthen social security systems;
  • Recognition of progress achieved on the American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • Recognition of the importance of ensuring full protection of human rights of all migrants, including migratory workers and their families;
  • Commitment to continue promoting access to quality basic education for all;
  • Commitment to facilitate affordable treatment for HIV/AIDS;
  • Commitment to maintain a sustained effort to improve living conditions for inhabitants of rural areas, by promoting investment and creating a favourable environment to achieve sustainable improvements in agriculture;
  • Pledge to intensify efforts to combat corruption;
  • Expression of concern regarding corrupt, illegal and fraudulent practices in the management of some national and transnational enterprises;
  • Promotion of transparency in political processes, in public financial management and in government transactions;
  • Commitment to encourage civil society participation in the Summits of the Americas process and institutionalization of meetings with civil society;
  • Commitment to take the necessary steps to prevent and counter terrorism and its financing.