Last week, a major alliance of Latin American trade activists--the Hemispheric Social Alliance--organized a meeting in Rio, Brazil to discuss the prospects for trade agreements in the region. IATP was invited to join and discuss the recent Doha collapse. Brazil's role in the WTO negotiations was the focus of most of the discussions.
No one can question Brazil's key role in the Doha negotiations. Since the WTO Ministerial in Cancun in 2003, developed countries have come to consider Brazil as one of the major trouble-makers at the WTO.
In July 2008, Brazil came to Geneva in a very different mindset. According to Adhemar Mineiro, a Brazilian civil society trade expert: “From the very first day of the July ministerial, the Brazilians worked towards closing the deal. As a result, in practice they played the role of advisers to Pascal Lamy rather than that of actual negotiating parties.”
Although Brazil’s stance in the negotiations had been softening over the past few months, it was particularly notable at the Geneva meeting. “The G-20 suffered badly from the new Brazilian position. It became an empty structure, which did not take any position on the outstanding issues of the negotiations,” said Mineiro.
Brazil minister Celso Amorim’s press conference at the end of the July ministerial was pretty blunt. He said he was not sure Doha could be salvaged. But President Lula disagreed. And Amorim had to backtrack: on August 12, 2008, he announced in an interview that President Lula would work towards another Doha meeting in Brasilia in September.
Brazilian trade activists see two main reasons why their country won’t let go on Doha. First, Brazil has huge farm export interests. Although the increase in market access secured through Doha will be modest, Brazil will enjoy a significant part of the gain. But Brazil is also seeking return for its investment in the multilateral system. The country is very wary of bilateral or bi-regional trade negotiations, with the experiences of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and Mercosur-EU trade agreement leaving bad memories. And it should be noted that Brazil is also taking a lead role in other multilateral instances, like the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
However important they consider multilateral trade rules to be, Brazilian social movements have many concerns with Lula’s Doha strategy. But Brazil’s president seems determined to try hard, and to be Pascal Lamy’s number one supporter. Other WTO members remain very skeptical.