As Mercosur’s Chairman Brazil’s Lula Is Poised to Tackle World Hunger

Lula During the next six months when Brazil holds the rotating chair of Mercosur, the South American common market, Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva intends to deal with what he considers two top priorities: the global food crisis and the regional social agenda.

Mercosur full members and associate countries are holding the bi-annual summit in Tucuman, Argentina and the meeting is being hosted by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

"It will be an open social agenda, with the purpose of creating forums to discuss the global food issue," said Marcelo Baumbach, spokesperson for the Brazilian president, adding that Lula "has shown in several international meetings his concern with the food crisis and it's most certain it will be one of the main issues of his six month pro tempore presidency of the block".

"President Lula will most possibly want to leave his mark in social affairs of Mercosur the same way that it's happening under his administration in Brazil," said a Planalto Palace (Presidential Office) source.

"He's already thinking about investing some of the windfall from the mega oil and gas deposits recently discovered offshore in social programs," added the source.

The Brazilian leader is traveling this Tuesday, July 1st, to Tucuman together with his Foreign Affairs minister Celso Amorim, international affairs advisor Marco Aurélio Garcia, Industry and Foreign Trade minister Miguel Jorge and the head of Social Communications Franklin Martins.

Giving the "Expanded Mercosur Council," which besides the ministers of finance and trade also includes those involved in social and welfare, is one of the instruments for the social agenda emphasis said the Planalto spokesperson.

Furthermore Brazil is planning to hold a summit of social development, education and health ministers next September in Salvador, northeast of the country.

On more specific issues Presidents Lula and host Cristina Kirchner are scheduled to hold a private meeting to talk about the joint building of the Garabi hydroelectric dam and "the supply of energy to Argentina during the winter months."

Wheat apparently is also in the bilateral agenda because the farmers stand off in Argentina has left Brazil with short supplies and on the lookout for other grain providers plus undesirable hikes in the price of bread and other goods.

"It's an open agenda, so wheat could very well be addressed," said Baumbach.

Another issue which is currently delayed and Brazil wants to re-launch is the "Structural Convergence Fund" for Mercosur, which was started in 2005 and is 70% funded by Brazil. This basically is geared to support the weaker Mercosur economies (Uruguay and Paraguay) with soft credits for structural investments.

Paraguay has five structure projects in the pipeline, totaling US$ 24.8 million and "Brazil would like to see them approved".

Brazil is playing gently with Paraguay since the incoming president-elect Fernando Lugo has anticipated he would be demanding a better deal for the electricity generated in the Itaipu falls, possibly the largest dam in the continent.

MW prices date back to the seventies when the huge construction was undertaken, the US dollar was stable, there was no energy crisis and Paraguay wants them updated precisely to address a social affairs investment agenda.



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