FTAA: His Work Now is to Convince Brazil’s Lula and His Own People, Says Bush

United States President George W. Bush while visiting Brazil admitted Sunday, November 6, he must work harder to convince Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the benefits of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, (FTAA) the big stumbling block in Friday/Saturday’s IV Americas Summit.

President Bush statements followed a private meeting with his Brazilian counterpart who played a key role in the Mar del Plata summit in preventing an agreement to resume talks for the creation of a free trade block from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

"We have to convince him (Lula da Silva) as we have to convince the American people that a trade agreement covering our entire hemisphere will create more jobs and improve our quality of life," said the US president.

Mr. Bush on his first official visit to Brazil also tried to improve and promote the US image in Latinamerica.

Before the interview with President Lula, Mr. Bush held a meeting in the US embassy in Brasí­lia with local youth groups’ where he insisted that Latinamerica had a perception of the US which was "not accurate". He also defended his push for democracy and governance in the region and all over the world.

"I firmly believe that a democratic society is one much more likely to be able to deal with the social ills of a society. I mean, a democracy is one in which minorities have rights and can express themselves through the legislative process. Tyrannies are such that minorities don’t have rights, unless you happen to be aligned with the tyrant".

White House spokesperson, Scott McClellan, said President Bush could perceive two visions of Latinamerica future, one supported by the US working for the expansion of democratic institutions and another by leaders he wished not to mention, but who preferred to return to gone by times in apparent direct reference to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez that has become Washington’s main adversary in the region.

Mr. Bush also brushed aside the enormous protest rallies, occasionally violent, which occurred in Argentina during his brief stay.

"I expect dissent; that’s freedom. It’s right to let people express themselves. What happened in Argentina happens in the US. It’s positive," he emphasized.

In Brasí­lia about 150 people staged a peaceful protest outside the Brazilian President’s residence as Bush’s motorcade passed by. Demonstrators held banners accusing President Bush of being a "fascist" and demanded he leave Brazil.

Bush arrived in Brazil late Saturday night from the IV Americas Summit in Argentina without having reached a consensus to resume FTAA negotiations. Actually the summit concluded with a final declaration reflecting conflicting positions regarding the US sponsored FTAA. However a new attempt will take place early next year following the World Trade Organization December summit in Hong Kong.

The 34 countries in the summit were unable to reach a compromise when Brazil refused to accept a timetable for the resumption of FTAA talks. Brazil together with Mercosur member countries, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay plus Venezuela said they would rather wait for the WTO Hong Kong meeting.

United States, Mexico, Chile and the rest of the leaders favored setting a fixed calendar to continue with hemispheric trade negotiations. (Chilean president Ricardo Lagos forecasted a first FTAA negotiations round will take place in the first quarter of 2006, following on the WTO December summit).

Actually Brazil is adamant in demanding a commitment from Washington for the reduction of farm subsidies, which "impede and limit the access of agriculture produce to the US".

The Brazilian President highlighted that for Brazil solving the agriculture differences through the WTO Doha round negotiations and a global agreement on the issue have become the priorities.

"We agree that the reduction as a step towards the elimination of agriculture subsidies will be crucial for world equilibrium," underlined Lula.

"We’ll work together in the Doha round and see how it works out, and we’ll continue to advance with FTAA," pointed out President Bush, who nevertheless conceded that "the (FTAA) agreement will not go ahead if the President (Lula da Silva) believes it’s not convenient for the people".

This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.

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