At the September 15 opening of the
37th Abras Expo, the largest convention of supermarket representatives in Latin
America, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that he is convinced that tax reform will promote social justice in the
country, because "those who are more able will pay more, and those who are less able will pay less, and especially because the
country will become more competitive in international relations."
Lula assured that the reform will ease the burden on the basic food basket. "It would be insane for someone who
criticized the tax burden, which rose from 25 percent to 36 percent, to want it to rise even more," the President affirmed.
In his speech, the President also drew a balance sheet of the Zero Hunger program and affirmed that the program has
already reached the 850 poorest municipalities in Brazil, providing benefits to 780 thousand families. According to the
President, the forecast is that, by the end of the year, 1.5 million families in the North and the Northeast will be served. He
promised to exceed this target in 2004: "We shall surpass this year's targets, and this is more than a duty."
Lula guaranteed that there will be more money circulating in the country, and he said that he will try to make it
possible that "all available funds that can be used to pay for food be placed at the disposal of all of those who need money, the
humblest sectors of the population."
He informed that around R$ 4 billion are being made available to individuals: "Together with the central labor
unions, we plan to introduce a credit line with less expensive interest rates. We shall also do this for retirees, who will be able to
borrow up to the equivalent of two minimum wages, paying 2 percent monthly interest." The President recalled that the Federal
Savings Bank is opening approximately 150 thousand popular accounts each month, as a way to have access to micro-credit.
With respect to foreign trade, Lula said that it is necessary to bring about the cultural, commercial, and political
integration of the Mercosur, through the construction of bridges, highways, railways, and waterways. It is also necessary that
flights between the capitals of these countries be established.
In October, Lula will meet with the presidents of the Mercosur member countries, to decide what projects will be
assigned priority. Those projects that will require outside financing will also be defined at the meeting.
The President commended the performance of the Brazilian delegation at the meeting of the World Trade
Organization (WTO) in Cancún, Mexico. He had special praise for the job done by the Minister of Development, Industry, and
Foreign Trade, Luiz Fernando Furlan, Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, and Agriculture, Roberto Rodrigues, together with the
other representatives of the G-21, the group of developing countries. "We created the G-21 to conduct a political and trade
battle against the developed countries, especially the United States and the European Union, which wanted to consolidate
their protectionist policies."
Lula said that, in calling for a more balanced global system of trade at the WTO meeting, Brazil and the group of
developing countries were not asking for privileged treatment. "We are not asking for any favors. What we are asking is that
developing countries receive fair treatment in international trade. All we want is the chance to compete freely. That is all we want."
The debate will proceed in the WTO, he remarked. "Who knows? Maybe we won't be only twenty-one? Maybe
we'll grow to twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, thirty? And who knows, maybe we'll have the political weight to gain the
attention of the countries that have greater economic and commercial power than the developing countries?"
The President affirmed that this strategy is linked to a more aggressive Brazilian foreign trade policy. He recalled
that, over the past eight months, he has met with all the presidents of South America and that, in November, he will meet with
various African presidents. In December, he will visit the Middle East. "I think we have to explore all the possibilities that exist
for the countries of South America, because we believe that this is the century in which South America will cease to be a
symbol of poverty in the world. We have the means to make a quality leap," he guaranteed.
He also affirmed that it is time for the country to cease being treated as a minor player. For the President, in this type
of negotiation, one must be forceful in order to gain respect. "I learned that nobody respects someone who negotiates with
his head bowed. Nobody respects anyone who negotiates as a lackey. With our heads lifted, defending our self-interest, we
shall be able to grow and open extraordinary spaces," he said. His speech received a big round of applause.
The President observed that this is the behavior that is serving as a guideline for the country's foreign policy. "This
is the role of Furlan, Roberto Rodrigues, and Celso Amorim. Because it's a tough game, and we realize that weakness will
not permit us to win."
He stated that, in today's Brazil, there is no room for cry-babies. For the President, conditions currently exist for
people to voice their complaints and see what needs to be done. "The days of the cry-babies are over. This country has operated
according to a vicious circle: The mayor blames the governor, who blames the President, who blames the IMF, which blames the
Pope, and it all comes back to the common people. Each one of us must assume his (her) responsibility."
The President praised the supermarket sector for the partnerships it has formed with the government in programs to
combat hunger and illiteracy. "If everybody assumes a little bit of his (her) responsibility, it will become easier, and all of us
The material for this article was supplied by Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian
government. Comments are welcome at