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If completed, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement would encompass an area of 800 million people and about $13 trillion in production of goods and services, making it the most significant regional trade initiative presently being pursued by the United States. The 34 democratic nations of the Western Hemisphere formally launched negotiations towards a FTAA in 1998, and set a January 2005 deadline for concluding a FTAA agreement. GAO was asked to analyze (1) progress made in FTAA negotiations since GAO's last (April 2003) report (2) factors that have been influencing the FTAA's progress; and (3) future prospects for the FTAA. USTR disagreed with our report, stating it was a poorly framed portrayal of progress and problems in the negotiations, overemphasized the role of the United States and Brazil in the current impasse, and did not give sufficient weight to U.S. efforts to make progress. GAO made several changes in response, but disagreed with USTR's assessment. The Departments of State, Commerce, and Agriculture provided technical comments, which we incorporated.

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