Establishing a 34-nation Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement has been under negotiation since 1998. This agreement would eliminate tariffs and create common trade and investment rules for these nations. Most recently, the United States, along with Brazil, assumed the leadership of the negotiations. GAO was asked to analyze (1) the challenges for the current negotiating phase, which will include a ministerial meeting in Miami, Florida, in November 2003; and (2) the U.S.'s readiness to serve as co-chair of the negotiations and host of the November 2003 ministerial.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Office of the U.S. Trade Representative||In order to successfully carry out the responsibilities involved in co-chairing the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations and hosting the November 2003 Miami ministerial, the USTR should intensify U.S. preparations and promptly and regularly evaluate whether current resources and plans are sufficient to carry out the tasks and mitigate the risks associated with these two responsibilities. The risk we have identified are (1) handling the increased workload associated with co-chairing the negotiations and hosting the Miami ministerial with limited staff at USTR; (2) resolving procedural and substantive issues through the co-chairmanship; (3) acquiring sufficient expertise in planning major events; (4) clarifying and further developing plans for the Miami ministerial; (5) securing sufficient funding for the ministerial; and (6) ensuring the security of participants at the ministerial. Several of these resources and plans involve allowing significant lead time, which the USTR should take into consideration.|