Summit to release free trade plan
QUEBEC CITY, Canada -- American leaders are to release a draft plan to create a free trade zone covering most of the continent within four years.
The plan is due to be announced on Sunday at the end of the three-day Summit of the Americas which has been marred by anti-globalization protests.
Demonstrators, who fear the trade pact will widen the gap between rich and poor, have fought pitched battles with police outside the summit convention center.
In two days of unrest, at least 34 police officers were injured, as were 57 demonstrators. There were at least 150 arrests, police said.
Police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to force protesters back from barricades, periodically shifting their security lines to counter movements by protesters.
Some demonstrators threw rocks and at least two Molotov cocktails. Those caught behind police lines were restrained and removed.
Summit leaders are expected to put aside differences on Sunday over a proposed free trade zone across the Americas as they wrap up their summit.
They are expected to release a joint statement declaring plans to form the zone, but excluding non-democratic countries from the alliance They hope to implement the plan by 2005.
The joint statement is expected despite reservations by some Latin American leaders who fear smaller economies will be overpowered by their industrialized neighbors.
But countries like the U.S. and Canada say a free trade zone will strengthen democracy and boost smaller economies.
President George W. Bush and leaders from across the Americas, meeting behind heavily guarded chain-link fences, agreed that only democratic nations should share the fruits of the massive free-trade zone of 800 million people, linking markets from Alaska to Argentina.
"From this day forward, the benefits of any agreements we reach will flow only to those nations that abide by our democratic clause," Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, the host of the summit, said at a news conference.
Chretien said it would exclude any country that ceases to be a democracy from participation in future summits, membership of the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the benefits of the Inter-American Development Bank, a key regional financer.
The idea is to strengthen multiparty systems that have replaced military and civilian dictatorships across the region during the past two decades, but have appeared increasingly unstable in some countries as economic prosperity has failed to follow.
Cuba was the only country in the region excluded from the Quebec summit, for its lack of free elections.
The leaders were to hold meetings Sunday before signing a final declaration and releasing the draft text -- a move which meets a key demand of groups who have protested peacefully since the summit started on Friday.
But it is unlikely to appease protestors who have clashed with police. They maintain that the proposal fails to protect laborers or the environment. They claim it is motivated by corporate greed.
Police said nearly 30,000 protesters marched through Quebec City on Saturday, with a few thousand growing violent along the security fence.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general, arriving at a conference center dinner with the smell of tear gas fume in the air said he was not bothered by the fumes.
"It didn't affect me, but an old infantryman always remembers what tear gas and pot smell like when you walk into the barracks," he said.
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