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Brazzil - Foreign Relations - September 2003

No Use to Complain, Brazil. Retaliate!

The only way for Brazil to reduce the barriers imposed on our
export products resides in our power to retaliate and harm the
economy of rich nations. But because we cannot do this,
all we do is to keep on protesting at the WTO, pretending to
believe in the good future intentions of our interlocutors.

Carlos Chagas


Yet another meeting of the World Trade Organization, this time in Cancún, Mexico, ended the only way it could have ended, with rich countries telling poor countries to go back to Planet Earth and poor countries holding on to the illusion that will one day be able to convince rich countries to let go of their interests in favor of a miraculous equity in trade.

Nothing major has changed or will ever change in trading between nations. Plenty of smokescreens, some deceit and a few promises may garnish the debates and the front pages of newspapers, but the truth is that the First World will keep granting subsidies to its own products, mainly agricultural, and the Third World, having incorporated the Second, will keep protesting the fiscal barriers that harm their exports.

It couldn't be any other way and it won't be, as long as the world exists. Which country would be willing to act against its own interests and sacrifice its citizens, at least while it enjoys economic and military strength? From the Egypt of Ramses II to Babylon, from Assyria to the Roman Empire, from the Mongols to the United States and the European Union of today, the order of the day is to establish the will of the stronger over the weaker.

Countries in `development', which is an euphemism for poor countries, always end up paying the bill of the rich. Just look at the public account deficit in the United States today, which is over US$ 600 billion. Are the Americans working on any primary surplus because of that? Are they using their wealth to pay interest?

The only way to achieve isonomy and reduce the barriers imposed on our export products resides in our power to retaliate and fundamentally harm the economy, the institutions or the stability of rich nations. If we were only able to somehow threaten the rich to the point of making them fearful of our threats, the problem would be solved. But because we can't, all we do is to keep on protesting at the WTO, pretending to believe in the good future intentions of our interlocutors...

A Solution in Fresh Water Reserves

By simply denouncing the overtaxation of our orange juice, soybeans, steel, chicken, beef and all the other stuff, all we are doing is joining in the farce. And we are already under the burden of routine declines in the international prices of iron ore, cadmium, niobium and as many noble minerals as exist in our land—actually, of everything that we either own in large amounts or can produce at lower costs.

To keep on crying only shows our weakness and makes our "partners" shrug their shoulders at our tears. The label they use to keep their advantage over us is less important—today it's the market, yesterday it was `freedom'. What they do is the right thing for them, because they have to defend their people. We should do the same, but how?

That is the big question for President Lula and the representatives of the other poor countries. Instead of long discussions about whether we are in fact less poor than the others, whether we "falamos" (speak) while they "hablan" or whether our situation is different because our land is larger and mightier, we would better be looking for a way out by searching for tools that would allow us to use pressure, threats and retaliation.

It's difficult to imagine that they would let us take the nuclear route—after all, they managed to explode our mini-rockets before they could even reach the clouds. Still, where there is a political will, there is a solution. The devil is in how to find it.

There are those who think that fresh water is the formula to balance the dialogue between the destitute and the powerful in the world, at least in the case of Latin America. In 30 or 40 years there will be a shortage of potable water in our planet. Actually, there is already a shortage. We in Latin America and in particular Brazil, have the largest reserves in the world. How to transform this wealth into power? First, of course, by establishing defenses so that they don't come and take it, like they did with so many other resources.

Next, by finding mechanisms able to transform this wealth into an exchange currency. And then, by investing in the right technologies to take this water to those who lack it. We need to remember that we will always run the risk of them taking that which they lack by force, as in the case of oil. However, if the alternative is to keep on screaming at international bodies in search of what they don't want and can't give us, which would be equity and understanding, why don't we start working on this and getting ready?


Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio's daily Tribuna da Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments at carloschagas@hotmail.com

This article appeared originally in Tribuna da Imprensa - http://www.tribuna.inf.br

Translated by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association. Contact: terezab@sbcglobal.net




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