US manufacturers eye WTO alliance with Brazil

By: | at 08:00 PM | International Trade  

US manufacturers hope to persuade an influential Brazilian industry group to join them this week in a push for deep industrial tariff cuts in five-year-old world trade talks, a US industry official said.

“Our hope is if the Brazilian industry tells the Brazilian government they want to move (on industrial tariffs)” that will persuade other key countries to make similar moves in the negotiations, said Frank Vargo, vice president of the Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers.

NAM officials will meet this week in Sao Paulo with their counterparts from the Sao Paulo Industry Federation, one of Brazil’s most influential industry groups, to enlist their support in the world trade talks for reducing tariffs to zero in a number of priority industrial sectors.

NAM President John Engler will also make a side trip to Brasilia to meet with senior government officials.

The trip follows talks this month between US President George W. Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, where the two leaders said they would not settle for anything less than a comprehensive WTO deal.

“I believe that in this case there’s no Plan B. Either we have the A Plan, or there’s no agreement,” Lula said at Bush’s Camp David retreat.

Settling for something less “kind of means you’re willing to retreat,” Bush agreed. “I’m a Plan A man, just like the president is. Let’s get the job done.”

Brazilian industry has been wary of agreeing to sectoral talks with a goal of reducing tariffs to zero, but hopefully is beginning to reconsider that position, Vargo said.

Brazil’s main interest in the world trade talks, formally known as the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), has been to get increased market access for its agricultural products.

But unlike India and China, Brazil appears to recognize that a final agreement will require developing countries to open up their industrial markets in exchange for rich countries lowering farm trade barriers, Vargo said.

China, which joined the WTO in 2001 and has just finished phasing in most of its market-opening commitments, “seems to think the DDA means ‘don’t do anything,’” Vargo said.

US Trade Representative Susan Schwab is headed to India this week for talks with Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath on bilateral trade issues and the Doha round.

Schwab told reporters she and Nath also would participate in a brief meeting with EU and Brazilian officials to discuss current efforts to bring the Doha round to a successful close. (Reuters)


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