Brazil Offers ‘New Geography of Trade’

     Brazil Offers 'New Geography 
of Trade'

    São Paulo is
    getting ready for the UN Conference on Trade and
    Development. The meeting is considered the most important
    international event to take place in Brazil since the Rio 92 UN
    Conference on Environment and Development. Four
    thousand representatives from 192 countries will be present.

    by: Spensy
    Pimentel

    Ricúpero

    The meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
    scheduled to take place in São Paulo, Brazil, between June 13 and 18
    can contribute indirectly to the creation of an "atmosphere" favorable
    to liberalizing international trade in agricultural products, in the opinion
    of Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Ricúpero, UNCTAD secretary-general.

    "The moment is especially
    critical for trade negotiations. We are a little over a month away from the
    deadline for negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to reach an
    eventual agreement on a platform to continue the Doha Round next year, after
    the American elections. Therefore, since UNCTAD’s agenda is also largely composed
    of trade issues, it is inevitable that it has a relation to the efforts currently
    underway to revive the negotiations," the Ambassador affirmed in an interview
    with journalists last week in Brasília.

    The Doha Round is the
    result of the WTO Ministerial Conference, held in Doha, Qatar, in November,
    2001, when parameters were determined for initiating a new round of world
    trade negotiations.

    In principle, the new
    round should last three years. Through 2005 various issues will be debated
    to bring order and new rules to sectors such as agriculture, services, access
    to markets, intellectual property, antidumping, settlement of disputes, electronic
    commerce, and policies on competition, among others.

    To negotiate an end to
    obstacles impeding trade in agricultural products, Brazil is aligned with
    other developing countries in the so-called G-20. The formation of this group
    occurred at one of the Doha Round meetings, in Cancun, Mexico, last September.

    The developed countries
    currently maintain various direct and indirect barriers to the entry of agricultural
    products from the developing world. They pay subsidies to their farmers, for
    example, on the grounds of preventing rural migration.

    In the United States there
    are various instances, among them, cotton, for which, upon a Brazilian initiative,
    the country was recently condemned "temporarily" by the World Trade
    Organization: 89.5 percent of the overall value of cotton produced in the
    United States is granted by the government. The subsidies amount to US$ 12.9
    billion, roughly equivalent to all the loans the Brazilian government makes
    each year to the entire agricultural sector.

    When asked by journalists
    whether the coincidence between the UNCTAD meeting and negotiations over the
    Doha Round that will occur in Geneva in the next three weeks could work in
    favor of developing countries, Ricúpero replied that he thinks this
    is "very possible."

    "By chance, all the
    great figures connected with education, including Doctor Supachai Panitchpakd,
    Pascal Lamy, etc., will be here in Brazil. I consider it almost natural for
    there to be informal contacts," he affirmed, referring, respectively,
    to the director general of the WTO and the trade commissioner of the European
    Union.

    To reinforce his assessment,
    the Ambassador recalled the coordinating function performed by the UNCTAD
    meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, in February, 2002, after impasses had blocked
    interministerial negotiations at the Seattle (US) meeting of the WTO in December,
    1999.

    "That conference
    helped a lot. Not formally, of course. We have nothing to do with the WTO’s
    procedures. But it provided opportunities for conversations and understandings.
    It created an atmosphere that later permitted the Doha Round to be launched.
    And I hope it happens again."

    The UNCTAD meeting in
    São Paulo is considered the most important international event to take
    place in Brazil since the Rio 92 United Nations Conference on Environment
    and Development. The event is expected to gather nearly 4 thousand representatives
    from the 192 countries that belong to the organization.

    New Geography of Trade

    "Concrete expression
    will be given to what President Lula has called a new geography of trade,"
    affirmed Ambassador Rubens Ricúpero, referring to the coming UNCTAD
    meeting.

    Ricúpero remarked
    that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s expression will serve as
    a motto for the debates at the gathering. "It is a very felicitous phrase,
    in my view, and will be practically the slogan of the conference."

    For the Ambassador, who
    was been secretary-general of the UNCTAD since 1995, the appropriateness of
    the expression is due to the fact that "nowadays South-South trade, among
    developing countries, is no longer a promise; it is a reality."

    "Even for the advanced
    countries, trade with the developing world is already very significant,"
    Ricúpero also affirmed. The Ambassador cited figures to justify his
    argument:

    "For Japan this trade
    represents 49 percent of the total, nearly half, in large part on account
    of China and the other Asian countries, the 41 economies of Asia and the Pacific
    are growing and will grow for 10 years at a rate of 6 percent. For the United
    States this trade currently represents 43 percent. Consequently, trade with
    the South is not an alternative to trade with the North; it’s a complement.
    And it should be intensified."

    Ricúpero also emphasized
    the growth of China, recalling that last year sales to China accounted for
    10 percent of Argentina’s exports and nearly 7 percent of Brazil’s. "It
    is drawing closer and closer to the day when trade among gigantic countries
    like India, China, Brazil, and South Africa will probably represent over 50
    percent of world trade," he asserted.

    For the Ambassador, this
    new geography of trade affects Brazil "positively." "Brazil
    increased its exports 21 percent in 2003. This is a fantastic fact, when one
    thinks that world trade grew only 4.7 percent."


    Spensy Pimentel works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
    agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

    Translated
    from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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