Four Latin American countries have already abandoned the G-22,
a group led by Brazil to oppose
the economic policies of the
United States and the European Union. Costa Rica, El Salvador,
and Colombia, all of them seem to have been seduced by
Washington’s promises and scared by the
The US carrot-and-stick policy seems to be working fine. Costa Rica became the latest country to pull out of the
G-22, a group of emerging countries including China, India and Brazil, whose main intent was to confront the United States
and the European Union over farm subsidies. After the dissenting group led by Brazil left the biggies talking to themselves
in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of September, US Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, did not hide his dislike and called
Brazil a "won’t-do" country with which the US did not intend to waste more time. He also invited the "can do" countries to
Costa Rica heeded the appeal, following on the steps of El Salvador, Peru and Colombia, which had abandoned ship
earlier. The Costa Rica government hinted that other Latin nations should do the same soon. They are all reconsidering their
opposition position after Washington left it clear that belonging to the Brazilian-led group would hurt their chances of
bilateral negotiations with the United States.
Trying to avoid more desertions, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made some phone calls. He made a personal
appeal to his colleague from Peru, Alejandro Toledo to reconsider his decision. Toledo didn’t reconsider anything, but
promised to send a representative, probably an observer to the G-22 (G-18?) meeting in Buenos Aires, this Friday.
At home in Brasília, the Brazil vs. US brawl, is also stirring up trouble. Roberto Rodrigues, the Agriculture Minister
and Development Minister, Luiz Fernando Furlan criticized the way the Brazilian representatives behaved in Cancun.
Officially, however, there is no disagreement. Lula’s spokesman, André Singer, defended Brazil’s actions calling them competent
and realistic and stressing that the Brazilian position is to obtain "with pragmatism and determination" better conditions for
Brazil in the area of international trade.
Rodrigues and Furlan had expressed their unhappiness with what they called "lack of information" from Itamaraty,
the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, about the Brazilian position on the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Lula called Furlan and
the Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, on Thursday, so they would give a show of harmony before the media.
Super Minister and Chief of Staff, José Dirceu, also denied that there is any crisis in the Lula’s cabinet. For him the
Brazilian diplomacy represents the country’s interests: "What was presented in Cancun during the World Trade Organization
(WTO) meeting and in Trinidad and Tobago is the negotiating tactic of Brazil. Not only Brazil, the majority of Latin American
countries cannot understand how is it possible not to discuss agriculture questions and at the same time discuss questions dealing
with intellectual property, investment and government purchases. We’ll be bringing all these themes to the WTO."
According to the Minister, the Brazilian position on the FTAA and the United States is not an ideological one, but
simply the government defending Brazil’s national interests. "We shouldn’t either ideologize or transform this question into
a confrontation Brazil vs. United States," Dirceu said, "but at the same time we shouldn’t retreat even a millimeter when
the matter is the defense of Brazil’s interests."
Leaving the door open for any strategic retreat, Dirceu also stressed that the Brazilian proposal in Trinidad and
Tobago for the FTAA wasn’t Brasília’s last word on the subject. This, says Dirceu, makes the Brazilian position something that
cannot be criticized either in Brazil or overseas.
Even if the G-18 (and dwindling) keeps the three big honchos (Brazil, China and India), analysts believe that Brazil
should not delude itself expecting that these two countries would do anything that might hurt their national interests just to keep
the group of emerging countries alive.