Saturday, November 8, 2003

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Drezner gets results from Brazil -- or does he?

My last TNR essay mentioned the standoff in Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) talks between the U.S. and Brazil from last month -- mostly due to Brazilian intransigence.

U.S. negotiators, aware of the standstill, "hastily arranged discussions with trade ministers from 16 of the 34 countries" in the FTAA yesterday and today, according to the Associated Press.

The results? According to Reuters, success!!:

The United States and Brazil have compromised on a set of ideas for creating the world's largest free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said on Saturday.

"I think we now have a good basis for a successful meeting in Miami," Amorim told reporters, referring to a gathering in two weeks of 34 regional trade ministers that is supposed to propel negotiations on the proposed Free Trade Areas of the Americas agreement to conclusion by 2005.

Amorim said he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick presented top trade officials from 14 other Western Hemisphere countries on Saturday with a joint set of ideas for moving negotiations forward after the Florida meeting....

A senior U.S. trade official, speaking on the condition that he not be identified, said negotiators still faced a major challenge to make the Nov. 17-21 meeting a success.

"But I feel certainly better about it today than I did two days ago because I think we got some useful insight in the meeting," the official said.

But wait! A follow-up Associated Press report provides a different spin on the talks -- failure:

The Bush administration reported no breakthroughs Saturday in informal discussions aimed at trying to resolve deep differences between the United States and Brazil over the scope of a hemisphere-wide free trade agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and trade ministers from 15 other nations wrapped up two days of talks in the Washington area on the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The FTAA, which would span the Western Hemisphere and cover 34 countries, is a key economic goal of the Bush administration....

At the conclusion of Saturday's talks, a senior U.S. trade official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, did not report any areas where the differences between the United States and Brazil had been narrowed.

Who's right and who's wrong? Read both reports and judge for yourself. [No, no, no, that's why the people read your blog -- your interpretation of events!--ed. Huh, I thought it was because of all the Carla Gugino links. Hmmm, that's a new name--ed. Yeah, I'm getting hooked on Karen Sisco.

Seriously, I think I'll give the edge to Reuters, since the AP report seems to be based only on the comments of the "senior U.S. trade official." However, if you actually read both stories, what's astonishing is how they essentially report the identical set of facts but with completely different interpretive frames -- I mean, spin.]

posted by Dan on 11.08.03 at 10:28 PM


Either alternatives are moot. The real story is the increasing trend toward regional and bilateral (the USA and Brazil striking a deal setting the rules for the *hemisphere*?) agreements that can be forged to serve the expediency of the major powers. How is this achieved? The same way the corporations subvert unions - by selective targeting their leaders with enticements or punishments. Here Brazil is negotiating a regional deal. Anyone wanna bet that the much abused Mexico, Chile, Venusvela, or Columbia might want to have a say in that? Wouldn't it just be a coincidence that the deal struck in whatever form just happened to benefit Brazil's interests over other countries? This isn't good news. This sort of break-down could easily lead to trade protectionism and tariff/duty retaliation.

posted by: Oldman on 11.08.03 at 10:28 PM [permalink]

As an addendum note of interest, US officials in the newly rejoined UNESCO cultural arm of the UN (announced by the always charming Lady Bush) are claiming the need for WTO style global arbitration in film exceptions. This essentially is the French response to Hollywood, in that they are going to openly subsidize their film industry to help keep it afloat. This requires using an exception in the trade treaties. Other countries wish to follow suit, to slow the cultural hegemony of big business Hollywood. Their response to US and Hollywood objections is that they are willing to trade improved enforcement of US intellectual copyright rights overseas in return for the right to subsidize their cultural media (films, TV, radio, etc.). US officials are cautiously optimistic an arrangement can be made. For my money it sounds like a win-win situation all around.

It is in stark contrast to the self-defeating US actions regarding Brazil, bilateral negotiations, agricultural subsidies, and stuff like the International Criminal Court.

posted by: Oldman on 11.08.03 at 10:28 PM [permalink]

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