Brazil should reject the offers that have been made in the context of negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO), lest the country’s development be compromised, claims retired Brazilian diplomat Rubens Ricúpero, a specialist in international trade.
The 6th Ministerial Meeting in the current round of negotiations in the WTO is scheduled for the third week in December, in Hong Kong.
"At this moment, it is better to have no agreement than a bad agreement," Ricúpero said in an interview. "The Brazilian government should remain firm."
The Brazilian position has been considered essential for the conclusion of negotiations in the so-called Doha Round (named after the Qatari capital, where the round got underway four years ago), in light of the position the country assumed in the articulation of the G-20 – the group of large developing countries that, since 2003, have been united in proposing the liberalization of international agricultural trade.
In Ricúpero’s view, accepting the minor concessions that have been offered by the developed countries with respect to agricultural products and, in return, having to forgo protecting important sectors of Brazilian industry, "is a bit like exchanging our future (as a country that can proceed to export products with greater added value and more technology) for our past (as an exporter of agricultural commodities)."
The former secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and present-day professor at the Armando ílvares Penteado Foundation, in São Paulo, says that, under the current proposal, sectors like the automobile and electro-electronic industries would be endangered, since import duties would be slashed around 50%.
He warns that, even though the proposals are insignificant, "they will be rolled up in such propaganda that it will give the impression that whoever refuses is assuming the onus of weakening the global trade system."
"What will be obtained in agriculture is very little, and, on the other hand, it is not worthwhile to exchange dynamic, high-technology sectors for only the possibility of expanding our commodity exports," he comments.
The diplomat also believes that the meeting in Hong Kong will be a mere "anticlimax," because, in Geneva (Switzerland), at the beginning of November, the majority of the important parties to the negotiations announced the positions they will defend at the meeting.
"The major players resigned themselves in public to lower the level of their ambitions, so there are no grounds for anyone to expect much from the meeting," he says.
For Ricúpero, what can come from the meeting is chiefly a revival of negotiating efforts, in order for new attempts to be made in the first half of 2006.
But, he cautions, there is the risk of a repetition of the "double-dealing" observed in previous WTO negotiating rounds, in which only the developed countries really benefited from the agreements.