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Sunday, 22 April, 2001, 21:41 GMT 22:41 UK
Free trade, deeper democracy
Mexican President Vicente Fox, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and President Bush
American leaders signed the declaration on Sunday
By BBC News Online's David Schepp in Quebec City

Despite the efforts of demonstrators in Quebec City to halt the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), American heads of government have agreed to pursue such a scheme.

The proposal to extend the already existing Nafta free-trade area - which links the US, Canada and Mexico - is one of the biggest and boldest ideas ever in the annals of commerce.


During the summit, several leaders alluded to the 21st century as the 'century of the Americas'

FTAA would encompass nearly all the countries of the Americas with a combined population of 800 million who produce goods and services totalling $11.4 trillion - bigger than the European Union.

The plan calls for the elimination or reduction of tariffs on goods moving between countries. It would also streamline customs regulations, eliminate quotas and subsidies and remove other impediments to trade.

The document calls on trade ministers to ensure conclusion of negotiations of FTAA by no later than January 2005 and to seek implementation soon after - but no later than December 2005.

Advancements

During the summit, several leaders alluded to the 21st century as the "century of the Americas", a reference to technological advancements that propelled the US to the fore in the 20th century.

The declaration seeks to advance the nations of the Western hemisphere by harnessing information and communication technology to raise the standards of living among member nations.

By signing the so-called Quebec Declaration on Sunday, Western leaders also endorsed a pact to exclude "undemocratic" nations from decision-making.


The document affirms the desire to maintain peace and security and support for the Organization of American States

It was a similar sentiment that led to the exclusion of Cuba from the Quebec City summit - the only nation in the Western hemisphere not to attend this year's summit.

In adopting the pact, the declaration calls the cessation of democracy an "insurmountable obstacle" for a country to participate in any future summits.

The Quebec Declaration also renews Western leaders commitments to democratic principles, including protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The document affirms the desire to maintain peace and security and support for the Organization of American States, which promotes cooperation among countries in the hemisphere.

The declaration also renews commitments among member countries to fight drug trafficking and Aids and to reduce the number of people living in poverty by 15% by 2015.

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