Major agricultural exporter Brazil is to head into WTO talks on hammering out a global trade liberalisation deal next week as one of the principal representatives of the developing world. As co-leader with India of the G20 -- a coalition of developing nations determined to win greater access to US and EU markets for their farm exports -- Brazil is seen as having influence in the talks which start on Monday at World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last week he believed Brazil, Latin America's biggest economy, was "key to a deal." Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has made it clear only an "equitable" accord would suit the developing nations. A senior official in the Brazilian foreign ministry's economic department, Roberto Azevedo, told AFP: "If the rich countries continue to have a highly protectionist attitude... the round could be compromised."
The Doha round of trade liberalization negotiations, launched in the Qatari capital in 2001, has been bogged down as developed and developing countries alike refuse to make concessions on their core concerns.
Brazil's position as one of the "big facilitators" in the Doha Round of talks is reinforced by its ambition to "take on the role of mediator, to look for an intermediate solution between the various interests of developing countries and the Europeans and Americans," said a former adviser to the G20, Andre Nassar of the International Trade and Negotiations Institute (ICONE).
The pointman for Brazil's efforts is Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, a 66-year-old veteran diplomat who has a reputation for calming confrontations. Analysts credit Amorim with holding the G20 together since its inception in 2003, and to acting as a sort of bridge to the United States and Europe, with which he is in frequent direct contact. Amorim's chief negotiator, Azevedo, stated that the G20 would maintain "constant coordination" during the discussions next week.
That coordination has proved a strong strategy for the developing nations, though it requires a Herculean effort to keep it up given the different goals of the countries, which include big exporters with open economies such as Brazil and Chile, and those more interested in protecting their markets and producers, such as China and India. The focus of Brazil and the G20 is, as Lula has put it, to establish "a new trade geography" that will better benefit poorer countries.
The Doha Round is already four years behind schedule because of the dispute between richer and poorer states struggling for an accord. Brazil had remained distant from the WTO haggling, but now it is putting its full weight into the negotiations, even leaving aside possible bilateral deals that some of its industries and farmers were eager to secure.
It wants the G20, which represents more than half the world's population, to walk away with what globalization has promised but been slow to deliver: help for poorer countries. That means opening the markets of richer nations to the farm products of developing ones. Such a message of social justice has found support in the media, including in wealthier nations.
A study by a non-governmental organization, Social Watch, even asserted that it was better to be a cow in Europe than a citizen in Africa, Latin America or parts of Asia. The basis for that argument? Each European cow attracts a subsidy of 2.20 dollars per day, whereas half of mankind has to get by with less.
Those pampered EU cows [moo] that have been estimated to receive $2.20 a day in subsidies while hundreds of millions of persons get by on less than that in the developing world are once again gaining centre stage as the latest WTO trade negotiations are scheduled to begin next week in Geneva. Like India, its G20 co-partner in the negotiations, Brazil has long been an active voice in international fora among LDCs. With additional economic clout, however, it is sometimes debated whether Brazil and India still represent the concerns of LDCs as much given that some now classify them as "middle income" countries. Nevertheless, Agence-France Presse reports that Brazil is still keen on winning greater EU/US agricultural market access, or no deal is forthcoming. Is Brazilian agribusiness keen on opening markets abroad or is Brazil keen on maintaining its first among equals status among LDCs by using relatively uncompromising rhetoric? Certainly, the "new trade geography" touted by Brazil sounds very much like the "new international economic order" of years gone by. Likely it's both: