Brazil Dreaming of a Latin American and Caribbean Free Trade Area

    Brazil’s greatest expectation for the final document to be approved at the Rio Group’s 18th meeting, which began yesterday and will continue through Friday, November 5, in Rio de Janeiro, is an unequivocal and objective declaration of economic and political support for Haiti.

    “We want full recognition that the task of recovering Haiti is everybody’s responsibility,” affirmed Ambassador Luiz Felipe Macedo Soares, Chancellor Celso Amorim’s deputy in the temporary presidency of the Group, exercised this year by Brazil.


    The event in Rio unites representatives from Brazil and 18 other South and Central American countries, as well as the Caribbean and Mexico.


    Soares, who holds the post of Undersecretary-General for South America in the Ministry of Foreign Relations (Itamaraty), recalls that the meeting can also represent an important step in establishing closer economic ties among these countries.


    “After the protocol signed with the Andean Pact, the conditions are ripe for South America to become a free trade area. Now we shall make progress with Central America and the Caribbean. We shall also hold our first meeting with Mexico early in 2005.”


    Soares, who is the Itamaraty official in charge of negotiations over the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), predicts that the arrangements worked out by Brazil and the Mercosur during the course of 2004 should have an effect on future negotiations with the United States.


    “It makes a big difference for us to arrive at the table with a fortified Mercosur and having already held conversations with the Caribbeans and Central Americans. At the start of this year, the situation was very different.”


    The Ambassador also underlines support for two proposals as Brazilian priorities for the final document of the meeting.


    First, the international campaign against hunger and poverty, for which President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva launched an appeal at a meeting parallel to the United Nations General Assembly in September, in New York.


    And, besides this, the idea of “innovative financial mechanisms,” including a set of changes that Brazil has been defending in international forums in the calculations made by financial agencies with respect to the government budgets of debtor countries.


    At present, outlays on infrastructure are considered expenses. Brazil proposes that they be counted as investments.


    This would be beneficial in such instances as the country risk factor scale, which provides investors an assessment of how safe it is to lend money to governments.


    If they were considered less indebted, countries could obtain loans at lower interest rates and spend less money on rolling over their debts, thus helping to generate a virtous cycle of growth.


    Agência Brasil
    Translator: David Silberstein

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