The proposed free trade agreement has its roots in the Enterprise for the Americas initiative, announced in 1990 by U.S. President George H.W. Bush. After the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992, the previous proposal was renewed under the administration of President Bill Clinton at the 1994 U.S. Summit in Miami. In 1998, preparatory work was completed and formal negotiations began. The negotiations on the ESTV were conducted in accordance with an agreed structure and timetable. Previous phases of the EAEA negotiations took place at seven ministerial meetings between 1998 and 2002 and presented three proposals. The last proposal contained provisions on market access, agricultural subsidies, investment, anti-dumping measures, competition policy, intellectual property, dispute resolution, public procurement and services. The final expected phase of the negotiations was held under the joint presidency of Brazil and the United States in November 2002, so that all negotiations could be concluded on 1 January 2005 and the agreement could be implemented by December 2005. Like most other trade agreements, the ESTV would have expanded trade by removing tariffs and other trade charges.
It would have improved market access for businesses by streamlining customs administration, removing technical barriers to trade and improving transparency. It is said to have obtained patents as well as environmental and occupational health rights. Many public services, such as telecommunications, electricity and insurance, are reported to have been open to foreign direct investment. The Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) was established at the vice-ministerial level. This committee is chaired by a chair and a vice-chair. The TNC is responsible for overseeing the nine negotiating groups (see below) and deciding on the overall architecture of the agreement and institutional issues. The TNC is also responsible for ensuring the full participation of all Member States in the ALEA process. In addition, the TNC will ensure that the concerns of small economies and countries with different levels of development are taken into account in each negotiating group. The OAS Business Unit organized a seminar entitled “How Governments Can Continue to Promote and Facilitate the Use of Arbitration Procedures and Other Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods to Address Differences in the Private Sector within the FTAA Region. The seminar was held in Miami on May 4, just before the third meeting of the FTA Dispute Resolution Negotiating Group. Among the topics discussed were the public international legal order for private commercial arbitrations, arbitration and other alternative modes of dispute resolution, as well as differences between the law and common law perspectives and civil perspectives, the development of arbitration agreements and the application of arbitration awards in the hemisphere, experience in establishing an arbitration centre, and the work of the NAFTA Advisory Committee on Private Trade Disputes.