PAULO, Brazil, October 22, 2003 -- CropChoice news --
NY Times, 10/21/03: A left-leaning statement
of intent signed in Buenos Aires last week by the presidents
of Argentina and Brazil might have been short on economic
specifics, but it did send a clear message: the South
American neighbors will resist efforts by the United
States to undermine their unity in regional and global
The joint message will not go unnoticed in Washington,
particularly with negotiators at the World Trade Organization
in Geneva scrambling to salvage what they can from the
wreckage of the recent Cancún summit and the
United States hoping that a meeting next month in Miami
will edge the Western Hemisphere closer to agreement
on a free-trade zone stretching from Alaska to Antarctica
that is supposed to be in place by January 2005.
Using increasingly stern language, diplomats from the
United States have blamed Brazil for the collapse at
Cancún, saying it was too obdurate in championing
the demands of developing countries for an end to farm
subsidies in developed countries.
After the Cancún talks, the United States trade
representative, Robert B. Zoellick, called Brazil the
leader of the "won't do" countries and warned
that America could opt to strike bilateral deals with
"can do" nations.
Since then, the group of 22 developing countries, which
was known as G-22 and which include Brazil, China, India
and South Africa, has shrunk to 12. The defectors, which
included Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and
Peru, apparently gave in to American pressure.
Even probusiness lobbies and some government officials
in Argentina and Brazil wavered, suggesting their negotiators
should adopt a more conciliatory stance in Miami.
Instead, the two presidents, Néstor Kirchner
of Argentina and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of
Brazil, signed the sweeping statement, dubbed the Buenos
Aires Consensus, as a rejoinder to the Washington Consensus
- a policy mix of free-market economics and fiscal austerity
often held up in the 1990's as the best path to growth
for developing nations.
Heavier on ideology than policy, the statement promised
action to generate jobs, not just profit, and fight
for fair, not just free, global trade. On the latter
point, the statement was clear. Argentina and Brazil
were determined to maintain the G-22 alliance and to
continue pressing for more equitable trade for farmers
in developing countries.
At the signing, Mr. da Silva's aides brushed off American
criticism, saying the president is merely doing what
President Bush always does - defending his country's
"A country of 176 million people cannot be isolated,"
said Marco Aurélio Garcia, the foreign policy
adviser to Mr. da Silva, "and if a country has
a solid alliance with Argentina, South Africa and India,
even less so."
He described the American efforts to chip away at the
G-22 as "political blackmail" but insisted
that, "With us, it won't work."
In Mr. Kirchner, who has already taken a pugnacious
stance against big business, in particular utilities
and banks, foreign creditors and the International Monetary
Fund since he took office in May, Mr. da Silva has found
a staunch ally.
Despite the odd hitch, like a recent squabble over
Brazil's perceived failure to root loudly enough for
Argentina in its negotiations with the I.M.F., analysts
say relations between two countries have never been
Not only are both governed by left-leaning governments,
but both are potential agricultural superpowers - together
they produced more soybeans this year than the United
States - and have an increasing number of common interests.
They are also less dependent on the United States and
the European Union than in years past, now that China
is opening its economy and needs to buy food.
"Before, Brazil and Argentina had to dance to
the tune of the G-7 because they were the only markets
for their products, but all that is changing,"
said Walter Molano, chief Latin American economist at
BCP Securities in Greenwich, Conn. Now, he said, "South
America is realizing that the future lies not in the
United States, but on the other side of the Pacific,
where there is demand for food."
Yet some observers worry the South Americans should
tread more softly when dealing with the United States.
"Brazil is fighting for equal market access and
that's a fair fight," said Eliana Cardoso, a visiting
professor at Georgetown University in Washington. "But
outright confrontation will not help Brazil."
While they jointly chair the free-trade talks for the
Americas, Brazil and the United States have differing
views of what the free-trade zone should look like.
Faced with Washington's repeated refusal to include
agriculture, Brazil says it will not admit American-proposed
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the negotiations have fallen
behind schedule. Yet Mr. Garcia predicts there will
- ultimately - be a mutually acceptable outcome.
"Yes, there are real points of conflict,"
he said. "But who really wants a policy of confrontation
with the United States in Brazil or with Brazil in the
United States? Nobody."