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
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
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,
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
will be given to what President Lula has called a new geography of trade,"
affirmed Ambassador Rubens Ricúpero, referring to the coming UNCTAD
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
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.