Brazil, Capital of the Developing South?

Over the next few days, Brazil will be hosting two international meetings that reflect its diplomatic priorities: strengthening concrete shared interests, especially trade-related, in smaller blocs of developing nations, instead of something as broad as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

The Group of 20 (G20), a coalition of developing countries pushing for a reduction of trade-distorting farm subsidies and for greater access to industrialised markets, are holding a ministerial level meeting Saturday and Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. And on Wednesday, Brazil will host the first India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum summit.

Although Brazil's current foreign policy is labeled "Third World-oriented," the government of leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has made no moves to go beyond mere observer status in the NAM, a largely political movement made up of 116 developing countries that is holding its 14th summit Sep. 11-16 in the Cuban capital.

Within the context of the G20, Brazil's main aim is to help revive the Doha Round of multilateral talks in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which broke down in July over the United States' refusal to reduce farm subsidies to the extent demanded by developing countries.

The plans for a "high level" G20 meeting took on an unexpected dimension as representatives of rich countries playing a key role in the negotiations, coordinators of other developing world blocs, and WTO chief Pascal Lamy decided to take part.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and Japanese Agriculture Minister Shoichi Nakagawa will all be participating.

The talks will involve delegates from different groups of poor countries with specific interests, such as the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the former European colonies in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), the Association of African Cotton Producers (AProCA) -- especially hard hit by U.S. farm subsidies -- and the Group of 33 (G33).

The members of the G33 (which now number 42) coincide with the G20 in the fight against the industrialised North's agricultural protectionism and subsidies, but they also advocate safeguard mechanisms for special farm products vital to their domestic consumption, food security, and rural livelihoods.

The protectionism defended by countries with enormous populations, especially India, serves as an argument that can be cited by the U.S. in defence of its own position, and runs counter to the interests of major farm exporters like Argentina and Brazil, which would benefit from a substantial liberalisation of trade in agriculture, said André Nassar, director of Brazil's Institute for International Trade Negotiations (ICONE).

These differences threaten the unity of the G20, given that many of its members, such as China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria, also form part of the G33.

Despite the presence of key negotiators like Schwab and Mandelson, and of around 20 ministers, this weekend's G20 meeting is not aimed at reaching any decisions, but will merely be a forum for dialogue in which "everyone will express their discontent over the suspension of the Doha Round," predicted Roberto Azevedo, the director of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry's economics department.

Unless Washington offers greater cuts to its subsidies, the Doha negotiations (launched in late 2001 in the Qatari capital) will remain paralysed, said Mandelson.

Trade will also be a central focus at the IBSA summit, although the alliance emerged in response to other issues as well. As leaders in their regions, India, Brazil and South Africa are all candidates for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council if it is ever expanded.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will arrive for an official visit to Brazil Tuesday, before the start of the IBSA summit. Business representatives from his country and South Africa will be meeting with their Brazilian counterparts from Monday through Wednesday in Brasilia, to explore business opportunities and clinch deals. Indian companies have lately been ramping up their investment in Latin America.

The IBSA summit will announce studies focusing on a possible free trade agreement between the Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela), India, and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), led by South Africa.

Mercosur and India signed a preferential trade agreement with limited scope last year, which is still pending congressional ratification in Argentina and Brazil.

The rise in trade between Brazil and India, which has increased fivefold since 1997, to nearly 2.34 billion dollars last year, "reproduces the imbalance of trade with China, to which we export agricultural and mining products while importing industrial goods and hi-tech products," Professor Tullo Vigévani at the State University of Sao Paulo pointed out to IPS.

Without more balanced trade flows and broader economic relations, which extend to investment and technological cooperation, integration will be weak, warned the expert in international relations.

Nevertheless, he described the forging of closer ties between emerging powers as "strategic," because their economic clout allows them to claim a more decisive role on the world stage.

The growing number of alliances and coalitions among developing countries does not amount to a resurgence of the "Third World" movement represented by the NAM in the 1960s and 1970s, but instead shows that "some countries, like Brazil, China and India, are determined to strengthen their interests and positions in the world, without ideological confrontations, and maintaining good relations with the United States and other powers at the same time," said Vigévani.

The NAM was founded in 1961 with the aim of bringing together developing countries that were neither aligned with the United States nor the Soviet Union. Since the Cold War came to an end, the movement has sought to redefine its role in an unstable global context marked by U.S. hegemony.

The G20, which was formed in 2003, is made up of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

[Source: By Mario Osava, Terraviva Europe, 11Sep06]

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