According to the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, the President of the United States, George W. Bush, demonstrated receptivity to president Lula’s idea to schedule a meeting between heads of State from rich and poor countries to discover a way out of the negotiating deadlock in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Lula spoke with Bush today (7) for about a half hour on the telephone.
Initially, the Brazilian president wanted such a meeting to be held prior to the December 13-18 WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, which is supposed to conclude the Doha Round, the series of negotiations begun in 2001.
Now, the idea is for the meeting between heads of State to take place in January. According to Amorim, both Lula and Bush believe that the European Union needs to make concessions in the area of ending agricultural subsidies and that the negotiations should proceed beyond the Hong Kong meeting.
"Bush shares this opinion that things are really at an impasse and that the European Union must be induced to move forward. This will naturally require some countries to abandon the hard-shell positions they currently defend," Amorim commented.
Lula made the same suggestion last week to the British prime minister, Tony Blair, whose reaction was also favorable. In an attempt to get the Doha Round back on course, Lula has been in touch with the Argentinean government and sent messages to the presidents of China and South Africa, as well as the prime minister of India, according to Amorim.
During their telephone conversation, according to Amorim, Bush commended Lula’s leadership in the fight to end agricultural subsidies.
"The United States made a gesture in terms of domestic support, and we hope that they can do more, but we comprehend that, for that to occur, the European Union must also open up in the area of market access and agricultural commodities, which has not happened up to now."
According to the Minister, Brazil is willing to give up privileges, if the wealthy nations are willing to do the same. "Our flexibility is limited and proportional to what the rich countries can do in the agricultural sphere, specifically in reducing tariffs on agricultural goods."
Lula also told Bush about the results of the National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), showing a decrease in the country’s social inequalities.