Since the 1990s, Latin American and Caribbean countries have focused on U.S. trade policy, as evidenced by the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement, and, more recently, the Central Republic-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The Bush administration made trade agreements important elements of U.S. trade policy. The United States is in the process of concluding trade negotiations with Andean countries for a free trade agreement (FTA) and the reactivation of talks on a free trade agreement between the United States and Panama and a U.S. Free Trade Area (FTA). EstV Aista is an ongoing regional trade initiative that was first discussed in 1994 and officially launched in 1998. The last meeting of FTA trade ministers was held in Miami in November 2003, but discussions are currently stalled. The first summit of the South American community of nations was held in Brasilia on 30 September 2005. Most heads of state from South American countries attended the summit. Despite venezuelan President Hugo Chavez`s efforts to replace the proposed structure of the CSN with his own proposal, summit representatives decided to advance what their foreign ministers have already developed in preparatory meetings. They supported the idea of a Mercosur-CAN merger to make all of South America a free trade area.
One of the outcomes of the summit was to invite the secretariats of all existing integration mechanisms to prepare, by mid-2006, studies on the convergence of trade agreements between South American countries. (61) Another set of rules concerns the “enabling clause,” the 1979 decision on differentiated and more favourable treatment, reciprocity and wider participation of developing countries. These rules apply to preferential trade agreements between developing countries and allow developing countries to enter into preferential trade agreements without the conditions of Article XXIV. (15) Some South American politicians also raised the possibility of political union and said it would be “the most important political development of the decade.” Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim stressed the importance of creating institutions necessary for South America`s economic integration and continuing to do the same in the future for the social and political integration of the “South American Community”. (60) Heads of state and government expect South American integration to put South American countries in a stronger position in negotiations with the rest of the world, including a possible free trade agreement with the EU and the US Free Trade Area (FTA).