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Latin America Gathers in Brazil to Oppose Free Trade Agreements

The cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, BrasÀ­lia and Belo Horizonte will be the
settings for demonstations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, as well
as the Mercosur-EU trade agreement, on October 14. Representatives of NGOs from
all over Latin America will converge on those cities to express their
opposition.

According to Rosilene Wonsetto, who coordinates a Brazilian campaign against FTAA (Campanha Brasileira Contra a Alca), trade agreements should provide family farms with benefits. She also complains that the biggest economic distortions between developed and developing nations are exactly in the farm sector.

“The agreement (FTAA) will only benefit American farmers. Few Brazilian farmers will be able to take advantage of the agreement,” says Wonsetto, pointing out that US farm subsidies make their exports cheaper.

As for the EU, Wonsetto is emphatic in denouncing the secrecy surrounding the talks; secrecy she says the Europeans have demanded. “We are not even certain of when they [Mercosur and the EU] will be talking. Should be between October 20 and 24,” she says.

Another member of the campaign, who belongs to the Jubileu Sul group, Rodrigo Vieira, says that Latin American governments should work for integration in order to improve quality of life for their populations. He says it is an error to emphasize farm produce over manufactured goods. “The result is we sell products with a low aggregate value. They (US and EU) sell more expensive items. That is why there is such a pronounced disparity.”

Fatima Mello, of the Brazilian Network for Peoples Integration (Reprip), seconds Vieira’s concern with the emphasis on farm goods. She says Brazil is handing over strategic sectors [to foreigners] by concentrating on raw material exports.

Although the FTAA has been a favorite target, Paulo Maldos, of the Sedes Sapientiae Institute (Cepis), says that “It is no good to barricade FTAA on one side and lower our guard on the other and let the Mercosur-EU negotiations move ahead unhindered.” He points out that while FTAA talks are stalled because of the US elections, negotiations with the EU are moving full steam ahead.

Data from the Continental Social Alliance (Alianza Social Continental) show that throughout Latin America it is the small producer and farmer who is losing ground, jobs and income. In Argentina, soybeans have replaced dairy goods as the top farm good. In Uruguay, timber plantations (where timber for exportation is being grown) are replacing traditional farms.

Agência Brasil
Translator: Allen Bennett

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