Free Trade Divides America
Brazil refuses Washington's Plan to enforce the agenda of the failed world trade conference in Cancun on its own continent. The US tries to drive a wedge between Latin American states.
By Gerhard Dilger, from Porto Allegre
[This article originally published October 6, 2003 in: die tageszeitung is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.taz.de/pt/2003/10/06/a0072.nf/textdruck.]
Brazil's foreign minister was rarely so undiplomatic. Celso Amorim regards the "threats" of the US government "on all planes" as "destructive" and "unfortunate". At the WTO conference in Mexican Cancun, he led the group of the "G20-plus", those rebellious threshold- and developing countries that insist on concessions of the North in agricultural policy. Brazil was responsible for the "fiasco" of Cancun, Washington says.
Now the Bush administration strikes back. Step by step it draws the countries of Latin America to its side. Colombia was the first to leave the G20-plus. This was hardly surprising considering the intimate relations between the presidents George W. Bush and Alvaro Uribe. A whole convoy of countries followed last week. The US pulled the majority of delegations to its side during the negotiations on the free trade zone from Alaska to Tierre del Fuego (FTAA) in Trinidad. Brazil's Mercosur partners Paraguay and Uruguay succumbed. Only Argentina, Venezuala and the states of the English-speaking Caribbean stayed with Brazil.
In the framework of an "ambitious" free trade zone, the US wants to enforce by 2005 what was unsuccessful for them in Cancun: the unhindered access of their corporations to businesses in the service area and to lucrative government contracts. The themes "intellectual property" and investment protection should also be regulated in the scope of the FTAA.
The World Trade Organization is given responsibility, according to Washington, without dismantling the agricultural subsidies and anti-dumping laws with which Latin American products are kept away from the US market. The WTO is that authority in which the industrial countries openly promote protectionism. "We are not ready to disarm unilaterally", US trade commissioner Robert Zoellick confirmed in Trinidad again and again.
Brazil's priorities are the exact opposite. In Cancun, the Brazilian government sought to couple possible concessions to improvements in agricultural trade. No common draft has been presented for the FTAA ministerial round scheduled for Miami at the end of November 2003. Brazil's negotiator Adhemar Bahadian sees "the hour of truth" coming. For the first time the delegations put their problems with Washington's "ambitious agenda" on the table. Brazil had warned about this agenda since the beginning of the year. The scheduled start of 2005 was absdolutely "unworkable", its Venezualan colleague Victor Alverez added.
Foreign minister Amorim stood up for an "FTAA without straitjackets". Every counrtry should be free to drastically liberalize its markets. None should be forced. However the Bush administration may not accept such an "FTAA light".