On September 7th, Brazil’s Independence Day, marches will
take place throughout the country with
the theme "Take your
hands of our land". On September 16th, a coalition of hundreds
movements will turn in a petition signed by millions
of Brazilians demanding an official plebiscite on the FTAA.
The U.S. Congress recently released a study saying that the odds of the negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA) being completed by the proposed deadline of 2005 are "precarious." The study puts most of the blame on
Brazil, who it calls a "reticent and difficult commercial partner."
This evaluation is in response to the fact that the new Brazilian government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has taken a
harder line in its negotiations of the FTAA. In addition, Brazilian social movements are increasing their protests against the
trade accord. which they see as an attack on Brazilian sovereignty.
Brazil’s offer for the negotiations were very cautious. Products were divided into four categories with different time
periods for lowering tariffs. Twenty percent of the products would have zero tariffs immediately; 3 percent in five years; 16
percent in ten years and 61 percent in more than ten years. In addition, there are safeguards for emerging industries and to
assure balance of payments. Brazil’s offer also set a condition on the elimination of non-tariff barriers and subsidies (especially
in agriculture) by the U.S. In July, the Brazil’s Foreign Relations Minister, Celso Amorim, released Brazil’s new positions
in relation to the FTAA negotiations.
Brazil wants to negotiate in three "tracks". The first track would be in negotiations of the Mercosul (Brazil,
Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) and the U.S., called "4+1." Here, it wants to negotiate market access and, in a limited manner,
services and investment. In the second track (the FTAA negotiations) it wants negotiate themes like solution of controversies,
special treatment for developing countries, compensation funds for poorer countries, sanitary regulations and trade facilitation.
In a third track (the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations), more sensitive issues like intellectual property,
public services, investments and government purchases would be treated.
This "balkanization" of the negotiations, as one U.S. negotiator has called it, is in many ways, a reaction to a number
of recent U.S. actions. First, its initial offer for the FTAA in February of this year divided Latin America in four regions
with varying tariff levels. The least generous levels were reserved for the Mercosul. Ninety-one percent of Caribbean
products would have a zero tariff in 2005, while only 58 percent of Mercosul products would have free access. In addition the
U.S. recently signed a bilateral trade agreement with Chile and is rapidly negotiating an agreement with Central America.
Meanwhile, Brazilian civil society is planning increasing mobilizations against the FTAA. On September 7th,
Brazil’s Independence Day, the Cry of the Excluded marches will take place throughout the country with a theme of "Take your
hands of our land" a reference to the FTAA and the recent decision of the government not to rent a military base in northern
Brazil to the U.S. On September 13th, people will return to the streets as part of the worldwide protest against the WTO as it is
being negotiated in Cancun, Mexico.
And finally, on September 16th, the Jubilee South/Brazil campaign, a coalition of hundreds of social movements,
unions, churches, and student organizations, will turn in a petition signed by millions of Brazilians demanding an official
plebiscite on the FTAA. Last year, this same campaign organized an unofficial plebiscite which mobilized over 150,000 people
who collected over 10,000,000 votes. Over 98 percent of the voters said that Brazil should not enter the FTAA.
This material was distributed by News from Brazil, a service from Sejup (Serviço Brasileiro de Justiça e
PazBrazilian Service of Justice and Peace). To get in touch with them, send a message to