Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Alvaro Uribe, the presidents of Brazil and Colombia, respectively, vowed Saturday, July 19, to boost trade and investment between their nations ahead of crucial world trade talks this week. Lula urged Colombia and the region to increase trade ties "so we aren't left dependent on a single partner," such as the US or European Union.
Lula called on European leaders attending the so-called Doha Round trade talks this week in Geneva to maintain farm ties with poor and developing nations, which have demanded that wealthy countries slash farm tariffs and subsidies that they say hinder development.
Wealthy nations on the other hand have insisted that developing countries grant manufacturers and service providers a better access to their markets. The impasse looms large as negotiators gather to try to save seven years of frustrating talks on a new global trade pact.
"We want to negotiate, but we don't want to keep our countries from having the opportunity to develop in the 21st century," said Lula adding that he is optimistic an agreement can be reached giving "poor nations better opportunities in international trade."
The Brazilian president also criticized a set of controversial European Union immigration guidelines, passed in June, that seek to standardize deportation processes, fingerprint all visitors and use a satellite system to keep out illegal immigrants.
"The only thing we want is for our brothers to be treated the same way as we treated them (Europeans) when they came here," Lula said of the guidelines.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe meanwhile urged Brazil to boost investment in his country, particularly in infrastructure and bio-fuel projects. More than 30 large Brazilian steel, oil and other companies now operate in Colombia, while Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol has been invited to help develop huge oil fields recently discovered in Brazil.
Brazil also announced plans to spend US$ 650 million on a railroad that will transport 10 million tons of coal a year through three Colombian states – its latest move to finance infrastructure projects that will expand its reach in markets across South America.
Brazilian Colombian bilateral trade in 2007 reached US$ 2.7 billion with Brazil exporting US$ 2.2 billion. Brazil's trade surplus with member nations of the Latin American Integration Association has climbed to US$ 16 billion from US$ 1.7 billion in 2002.
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