Create a free account to continue

Trade Talks Shadow India, South Africa, Brazil Summit

Brazil's president accuses rich countries of keeping the 'banquet' of world trade benefits to themselves, and called for greater reform in the U.N. and international treaties.

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Brazil's president accused rich countries of keeping the ''banquet'' of world trade benefits to themselves, and called for greater reform in the United Nations and international treaties.
The Doha round of World Trade Organization talks are looming large over a South Africa-India-Brazil summit on Wednesday that followed U.S. accusations developing countries were putting the talks in peril by refusing to open up their manufacturing markets.
''It is useless for us to be invited for desert and not the powerful countries' banquet,'' Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said as the summit opened. ''This Doha international negotiations cannot be simply and purely about the agenda of the small number of developed countries.''
The three countries, all regional powerhouses, came together in 2003 to strengthen ties between developing countries and to form a powerful bloc in world trade negotiations.
Efforts to liberalize manufacturing trade have hit a rough patch less than a month after the U.S. breathed new life into the trade talks by agreeing to limit trade-distorting farm subsidies to a range between US$13 billion (euro9.2 billion) and US$16.4 billion (euro11.6 billion).
The round aims to add billions of dollars (euros) to the world economy and lift millions of people out of poverty through free trade. But it has repeatedly stalled since its inception in Qatar's capital Doha in 2001, largely because of wrangling between rich and poor nations over eliminating farm subsidies, and more recently, barriers to manufacturing trade.
Silva, who is on a tour of a number of African nations, said he believed a ''fair and balanced resolution was not only desirable, but possible.''
However, he warned: ''This commitment must above all benefit the poorest. After, all this is a development round.''
Silva called developing countries to maintain their unity and deepen efforts to help weaker countries as well as pushing for greater reform in the United Nations and the expansion of the U.N. Security Council.
His bloc with South Africa and India ''is a tool to shorten the physical and political distances not only between our countries but all humankind,'' he said.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also emphasized unity among the three countries to ensure the voice of developing nations was heard.
''All developing countries have difficult job balancing the need for more rapid growth and problems of social inequality,'' he said.
Singh also pushed for greater economic ties and the establishment of a free trade area between the three nations.
President Thabo Mbeki was the least committal on what he was hoping from the meeting, where leaders are expected to sign a number of agreements in various sectors such as education, energy and technology.
''We must expedite process and produce deliverables that must make an impact o the lives of people of all our countries,'' he said.
He said the trade talks ''must be address issue of global transformation.''
Cracks are beginning to appear in the united front of India, Brazil and South Africa as they come under pressure from the U.S. and the EU.
Dot Keet, a Cape Town-based independent trade and international affairs researcher, said that in pursuit of their trade interests and the World Trade Organization agenda, developing countries have been increasingly concluding bilateral and regional agreements.
''They feel that if they tackle countries individually they might have more success,'' Keet said. ''It is the old-fashioned approach of divide and rule.''
Some developing countries are starting to breaking ranks with Brazil, India and South Africa, making their own proposals that support a reduction in manufacturing tariffs.
Such cuts would affect South Africa and its vulnerable textile and automotive industries, more than India and Brazil because of the way their economies are structured, said Philip Alves of the South African Institute for International Affairs.
''South Africa is making a logical sensible argument,'' Alves said. ''But the big question is if India starts softening and Brazil does the same, what kind of pressure will South Africa come under in the next couple of weeks?''
Part of the reason the Doha round has sparked such fierce and prolonged debates is that the final treaty must be agreed by consensus and will be legally binding on all countries.
The latest disagreements aside, the talks are troubled.
''Even if you get more movement, it is still a very long way off of getting a final resolution,'' said Alves.
More in Supply Chain