SÃO 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 trade talks.
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
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
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 national interests.
"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 better.
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
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
"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."