Southern Exposure

Desde as Entranhas dos Labirintos Latinos.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Brasil-US: Free Trade Pact Talks 'Useful'

This isn't exactly my field, but since Stephen is away for the weekend I'll do a bit of 'breaking news'. These talks should be watched with interest from all over the globe. The big issues of the moment are how far the group of 34 can hold together in a post Cancun world, and what precisiely is going to be the real level of commitment from the US administration to free trade in the immediate future:

Talks between the US and Brazil over a planned free-trade deal for the Americas have been described as "positive and useful". The discussions were aimed at settling differences between the two countries ahead of a 34-country summit later this month. The two have disagreed over farm subsidies and anti-dumping tariffs. The "Free Trade Agreement of the Americas" (FTAA) is meant to be signed off by the end of this year. The meeting in Washington included 16 of the 34 countries whom the US wants included in the FTAA.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said progress had been made in his meeting with US trade representative Robert Zoellick. "I think we now have a good basis for a successful meeting in Miami," he said, referring to the forthcoming 34-country summit. He added that he and Mr Zoellick had outlined their vision for the free trade area to the other 14 countries at the meeting. "Of course, the substantive issues are not resolved, but the general approach is one, that maybe with observations that should be included, will enable us to move forward," he said. A senior US trade official told reporters the meeting had been "positive and useful", although settling the differences would remain a tough task. "It is going to be a challenge," he said. "But I feel certainly better about it today than I did two days ago because I think that we got some useful insight in this meeting." The US wants the FTAA to include regional rules covering, among other things, government procurement, foreign investment and lower tariffs. But Brazil says these issues should be decided by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and wants to focus on farm subsidies instead.

The creation of the FTAA is one of US President George W Bush's key economic goals. But in the wake of the collapse of world trade talks in the Mexican resort of Cancun in September, the chances of reaching a deal looked remote. Brazil was one of three leading developing countries - the other two were India and China - who led opposition to the US, Japan and Europe in Cancun. They demanded that the richer countries move further and faster on agricultural subsidies and tariffs before they were prepared to accept new issues such as investment protection and the trade in services.
Source: BBC News

Any US readers in doubt about whether cutting yourselves off would be a viable option could well take the time out to read this where amongst other things Jared Diamond describes how:

"The first batch of natural experiments concerns understanding the effects of isolation and of group size and of communication with other groups on the productivity of human societies."

Come to think of it this could probably be read with to some advantage in Argentina, Venezuala and Cuba. The curious question is whether there are those inside the United States prepared to risk treading the path they have so consistently warned others against. From Lula's response to Zoellick it appears the answer is no, or a least no, not in sufficient numbers.


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