This week, elected officials, business leaders, trade negotiators and protestors from across the Western Hemisphere will converge on Miami for meetings of the Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty organization. The FTAA's goal is to extend NAFTA throught the America's, creating a giant regional trade block.
The stakes are high. With the recent collapse of the WTO round in Cancun, free-traders are feeling pressure to "restore momentum" to trade talks with a successful FTAA meeting. The protestors plan to be there in force, unleashing new swarming protest tactics, and they, too, seem to feel a need to prove that the Cancun collapse was something more than a fluke. Local officials are feeling the strain, too: Miami hopes to become the permanent home of the FTAA's secretariat, and a disasterous round may well hurt their chances. They've successfully petitioned the Federal government for millions of dollars in security funding.
This is the dance we've been taught to expect: trade officials, local authorities, protestors.
But the fact of the matter is that the real initiative this week lies altogether elsewhere - in the hands of Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ("Lula") and his Latin American allies from the G20+, particularly president Kirchner of Argentina. Lula's been on a diplomatic offensive, rallying a number of Latin American countries to his policies. They have made clear that they won't be signing any agreements which don't both open US and Canadian markets to their agricultual produce, light industrial products and textiles, and allow developing countries wide latitude to pursue new development models:
"[T]he main issue is not to say "yes" or "no" to FTAA, but to shape the FTAA that best suits us. What does not make sense is to concede preferential access to our market without receiving in return concessions in areas where we are most competitive, like agriculture, an area in which we face, besides the disloyal competition of subsidies, tariff and non-tariff barriers which make it impossible for our products to have access to markets. Offers presented so far indicate that the possibilities of gains in that sector are quite limited. ... In a word, what we want is a balanced FTAA that gives us effective access to the Hemisphere markets and that, at the same time, gives us room for a development policy."
Lula, the Third Superpower.
all eyes on lula! just incidentally tracking some of the lula love i've noticed lately :D
"Those who, like Extremadura's Ibarra, view open source as force for social liberation have their eyes on Brazil, which is now run by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former union leader turned president of the world's fourth largest democracy. Lula is the new darling of the global left. In Extremadura, he's considered the vanguard of social progress."
"Lula seems to be relishing his new status as international celebrity. Outside the Washington Beltway, Lula has been a hit abroad. In a recent poll by Zogby International and the University of Miami, Latin business leaders and intellectuals rated the Brazilian president the most popular leader in the Americas. By the year-end, he will have visited a dizzying 27 countries."
"Investors were surprised, and pleased, when Henrique Meirelles, former head of global banking at FleetBoston Financial Corp., was tapped by Brazil's left-wing President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to take charge of the Central Bank last January."
Thanks, Smerkin! Keep the Lula love comin'!