European Affairs

A BRAZILIAN VIEW: Fairer Farm Trade Will Be Crucial     Print Email
Rubens Barbosa

The Doha meeting was completely different from the disastrous gathering in Seattle two years ago, which I witnessed first hand. Unlike Seattle, Doha was marked by close collaboration between the United States and Europe and constructive contributions from the developing countries. The new, more cooperative approach created a much more favorable atmosphere, which greatly helped to ensure the meeting's success.

Brazil played an important role in the consensus-building process. We supported a new round of negotiations from the beginning, and we continued to act according to the view that for us, and for the international community, a multilateral trade negotiation was important for systemic reasons. We managed to include all the points on our agenda.

We have no illusions, however, about the difficulties ahead of us. We are very pragmatic. What we have managed to accomplish so far is only the definition of an agenda for the negotiations.

It is important not only to recognize the constructive role played by the developing countries, but to understand that in the negotiations that lie ahead there will be a new composition of forces in the WTO. The voice of the developing world will have to be heard, and that now includes China.

The reason for this is that many developing countries, including Brazil, believe that the results of the last major round of negotiations, the Uruguay Round, have been negative for us. This is in the back of our minds when we negotiate, and it is why we have insisted so strongly on the inclusion of points that were left over from the last round.

Even so, in some cases we are going to pay twice for the same thing. We paid a price to include agriculture in the Uruguay Round. Now we are paying again to include it in the new round.

So, we hope that the new negotiations will achieve a balanced result, meaning that unresolved issues, such as agriculture, textiles and many others, should not be held over until later. We cannot accept that new themes that are important for developed countries should be finalized in "early harvests," while points that are important for the developing world should be kept waiting indefinitely.

Brazil, perhaps, has greater resources of personnel than many other developing countries, but we still face a terrible challenge. We shall be negotiating on many fronts at the same time. Our leading trade experts will have to dedicate an enormous amount of time to the WTO negotiations.

But the same people are also involved in negotiations in Mercosur, in the talks between Mercosur and the European Union, and in the negotiations to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). It will be far more difficult for countries with fewer human resources than Brazil.

It is also unclear how the economic slowdowns in the United States, Japan and Europe will affect the willingness of developed countries to liberalize their economies. The mood in the U.S. Congress on issues important to Brazil, such as steel and farming, for instance, is very different from the enthusiasm for trade liberalization that prevailed in Doha.

We are entering these new negotiations, however, in the hope that we shall gain increased market access, and freer and fairer trade for our products, in exchange for any concessions we might make on issues important to the developed world.

For us, Congressional approval of new Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for President George Bush will be crucial. European officials are reported to have said that without TPA there will be no negotiations in the WTO. We say the same about the FTAA.

When we come to judge the end result of the new round, the key question will be how much progress has been made on agriculture - on the issues of domestic support, export subsidies and market access. This is vital, not only for developing countries in general, but specifically for countries in the Western Hemisphere.

One reason why we have fully engaged in these negotiations is that in the FTAA negotiations, the United States said from the very beginning that there were some systemic issues, such as agriculture and anti-dumping, that should not be negotiated at regional level but in the new multilateral round in the WTO.

I think it is no coincidence that the FTAA negotiations are due to end by the same date as the WTO negotiations, January 1, 2005. Whether this target date is reasonable may depend on the economic situation in the developed world, and whether or not the U.S. Congress approves TPA.

Rubens Barbosa is the Ambassador of Brazil to the United States. He has served as Ambassador to Britain; Coordinator of the Brazilian Section for Mercosur; Vice President of the Permanent Committee on Foreign Trade and Under Secretary-General for Regional Integration, Economic Affairs and Foreign Trade at the Ministry of External Relations.


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number III, Issue number I in the Winter of 2002.

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