By John S. McClenahen The text is sometimes mind-numbing. And it's filled with bracketed items, indicating language yet to be agreed upon. However, the draft text of the nine chapters of an agreement establishing the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is now available online. The preliminary bracketed text -- posted in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese -- covers agriculture, investment, services, intellectual property rights, government procurement, antidumping and countervailing duties, competition policy, and dispute settlement. "This is an important step in an international trade negotiation -- to make public at such an early stage the text under negotiation," says Robert B. Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative. "Free trade within the Western Hemisphere will expand U.S. access to markets for American workers, consumers, farmers, and businesses, and we believe that the availability of the text will increase public awareness of and support for the FTAA." The FTAA would create a single set of trade rules for 34 nations in North and South America (not including Cuba). If the countries hold to their schedule, product-sector and sector-specific market-access negotiations are to begin no later than next May 15. Negotiations are slated to conclude by January 2005, and the FTAA would take effect in December 2005. To download the draft text visit www.ftaa-alca.org/ftaadraft/eng/draft_e.doc.