People’s movements have been fighting FTAs ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed between Mexico, the US and Canada in 1993. Over the years, that fight has multiplied and grown — from Morocco to Korea and from Ecuador to Thailand. To our knowledge, so far only one FTA negotiation process has been stopped as a result of social mobilisation and pressure. In other instances, particularly in Korea, social movements have caused significant disruptions and delays of their government’s FTAs. Still, many grassroots struggles against FTAs and BITs have remained cut off from each other, a direct result of the "divide and rule" logic of bilateralism. FTA Watch, a loose coalition at the forefront of the struggle in Thailand, felt a strong desire to break this logic and share experiences with anti-FTA movements in other countries. It called on bilaterals.org, GRAIN and MSF — all of whom had been involved in global work against FTAs and BITs for many years — to help them organise an international strategy meeting, which was held in Bangkok on 27-29 July 2006.
This workshop brought together, for the first time, movements from many different countries which have been fighting FTAs and BITs. Participation hinged on people who have been directly involved in grassroots struggles to derail these agreements. Nearly 60 participants came from 19 countries across every time zone. Rather than attempting to set up a new network or build a common agenda, the workshop’s objectives were to share people’s experiences fighting FTAs in different countries and to build strategy ideas to strengthen national, regional and international struggles against FTAs.