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Brazzil - Foreign Relations - June 2004

Brazil Offers 'New Geography of Trade'

São Paulo is getting ready for the UN Conference on Trade and
Development. The meeting is considered the most important
international event to take place in Brazil since the Rio 92 UN
Conference on Environment and Development. Four
thousand representatives from 192 countries will be present.

Spensy Pimentel


Picture The meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) scheduled to take place in São Paulo, Brazil, between June 13 and 18 can contribute indirectly to the creation of an "atmosphere" favorable to liberalizing international trade in agricultural products, in the opinion of Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Ricúpero, UNCTAD secretary-general.

"The moment is especially critical for trade negotiations. We are a little over a month away from the deadline for negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to reach an eventual agreement on a platform to continue the Doha Round next year, after the American elections. Therefore, since UNCTAD's agenda is also largely composed of trade issues, it is inevitable that it has a relation to the efforts currently underway to revive the negotiations," the Ambassador affirmed in an interview with journalists last week in Brasília.

The Doha Round is the result of the WTO Ministerial Conference, held in Doha, Qatar, in November, 2001, when parameters were determined for initiating a new round of world trade negotiations.

In principle, the new round should last three years. Through 2005 various issues will be debated to bring order and new rules to sectors such as agriculture, services, access to markets, intellectual property, antidumping, settlement of disputes, electronic commerce, and policies on competition, among others.

To negotiate an end to obstacles impeding trade in agricultural products, Brazil is aligned with other developing countries in the so-called G-20. The formation of this group occurred at one of the Doha Round meetings, in Cancun, Mexico, last September.

The developed countries currently maintain various direct and indirect barriers to the entry of agricultural products from the developing world. They pay subsidies to their farmers, for example, on the grounds of preventing rural migration.

In the United States there are various instances, among them, cotton, for which, upon a Brazilian initiative, the country was recently condemned "temporarily" by the World Trade Organization: 89.5 percent of the overall value of cotton produced in the United States is granted by the government. The subsidies amount to US$ 12.9 billion, roughly equivalent to all the loans the Brazilian government makes each year to the entire agricultural sector.

When asked by journalists whether the coincidence between the UNCTAD meeting and negotiations over the Doha Round that will occur in Geneva in the next three weeks could work in favor of developing countries, Ricúpero replied that he thinks this is "very possible."

"By chance, all the great figures connected with education, including Doctor Supachai Panitchpakd, Pascal Lamy, etc., will be here in Brazil. I consider it almost natural for there to be informal contacts," he affirmed, referring, respectively, to the director general of the WTO and the trade commissioner of the European Union.

To reinforce his assessment, the Ambassador recalled the coordinating function performed by the UNCTAD meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, in February, 2002, after impasses had blocked interministerial negotiations at the Seattle (US) meeting of the WTO in December, 1999.

"That conference helped a lot. Not formally, of course. We have nothing to do with the WTO's procedures. But it provided opportunities for conversations and understandings. It created an atmosphere that later permitted the Doha Round to be launched. And I hope it happens again."

The UNCTAD meeting in São Paulo is considered the most important international event to take place in Brazil since the Rio 92 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The event is expected to gather nearly 4 thousand representatives from the 192 countries that belong to the organization.

New Geography of Trade

"Concrete expression will be given to what President Lula has called a new geography of trade," affirmed Ambassador Rubens Ricúpero, referring to the coming UNCTAD meeting.

Ricúpero remarked that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's expression will serve as a motto for the debates at the gathering. "It is a very felicitous phrase, in my view, and will be practically the slogan of the conference."

For the Ambassador, who was been secretary-general of the UNCTAD since 1995, the appropriateness of the expression is due to the fact that "nowadays South-South trade, among developing countries, is no longer a promise; it is a reality."

"Even for the advanced countries, trade with the developing world is already very significant," Ricúpero also affirmed. The Ambassador cited figures to justify his argument:

"For Japan this trade represents 49 percent of the total, nearly half, in large part on account of China and the other Asian countries, the 41 economies of Asia and the Pacific are growing and will grow for 10 years at a rate of 6 percent. For the United States this trade currently represents 43 percent. Consequently, trade with the South is not an alternative to trade with the North; it's a complement. And it should be intensified."

Ricúpero also emphasized the growth of China, recalling that last year sales to China accounted for 10 percent of Argentina's exports and nearly 7 percent of Brazil's. "It is drawing closer and closer to the day when trade among gigantic countries like India, China, Brazil, and South Africa will probably represent over 50 percent of world trade," he asserted.

For the Ambassador, this new geography of trade affects Brazil "positively." "Brazil increased its exports 21 percent in 2003. This is a fantastic fact, when one thinks that world trade grew only 4.7 percent."

Spensy Pimentel works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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