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Marc Grossman Interview by Brazilian Media

Interview by Brazilian Media

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs

Washington, DC March 12, 2003

(1:45 p.m. EST)

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I should be in Brazil today, and I'm sorry I'm not. Secretary Powell and the Deputy Secretary thought that because of what was going on in the United Nations I might just stay here. I spoke to the Brazilian Ambassador to Washington on Saturday afternoon and expressed my apologies and sent my apologies to the Foreign Ministry in Brazil, but I thought maybe we'd still have a chance to have our conversation here.

I had hoped to go to Brazil. As you know, Undersecretaries try to get together once every six months. The last time we had a Brazilian delegation here and I was hoping to go this week simply to say how important Brazil was to the United States; that Brazil, for the United States, is a key hemispheric partner and a key partner in all the things that we're doing around the world. One of the most interesting things to me as I was getting ready for this trip was, of course, to remember again how broad this relationship is we have with Brazil: economics, politics, law enforcement, counterterrorism, regional issues. And so I wanted to go and have a broad consultation with our Brazilian friends.

Had I gone, I'm sure we would have talked about some bilateral issues, but I know we would have also talked about Brazil's very important role in the Friends Group on Venezuela. They just had a meeting in Brasilia on Monday that Acting Assistant Secretary Struble attended.

I'm sure we would have talked about Colombia. I was in Colombia last week and I know that President Uribe was recently in Brazil. We would have had a chance, I'm sure, to talk about the FTAA that Brazil and the United States, I hope, will work closely on, and any other issues that might have been of interest. I felt bad to not go, and as I say, I thought maybe we would just all get together and have a conversation for a few minutes, so that's the purpose of all this.

QUESTION: So when you are going, now?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: We're going to try to reschedule this as quickly as we possibly can. I think the fact that we've tried to keep this up every six months has been a good thing, and so we don't want to put it off for too long, but unfortunately, I can't give you a specific date. But we'll do this as quickly as possible.

As I say, Brazil is an essential partner to us in the hemisphere.

QUESTION: Then this would have been, and will be under the consultative process, the first one, with the new administration in Brazil?


QUESTION: And what are the things that are more salient, on your side, in terms of things that you are -- that you want to emphasize right now, that you see as potential problems or that you see as potential areas for deepening relations? What are the things that are in your mind?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I would say all of the areas that I tried to list. I mean, if you think about the work that Brazil and the United States are doing together on Venezuela, with Brazil being in the lead on the Friends Group; if you think of the work that we can do together on Colombia, Brazil being an important vote at the OAS the other day for the resolution after the El Nogal bombing. And I know that President Uribe's visit was successful to Brazil, and so there's more than we can do in that area.

We'd like to keep up the conversation on counterterrorism. We'd like to keep up the conversation on law enforcement. We'd like to keep up the conversation generally on what's going on in the world; and we'd like to keep up the conversation with Brazil about all of the regional challenges that we have. So it was when I was there the first time, a year or so ago, and when counterparts came here six months ago, it was a broad agenda. We talked about everything.

QUESTION: Is there anything specifically on terrorism to Brazil, the frontiers being Uruguay and Argentina?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: A lot of attention needs to be paid to that tri-border area. General Hill, the Commander of SOUTHCOM, I think spoke quite clearly the other day about our concerns there. And while there's no evidence that there's an operational al-Qaida cell there, it's a part of the world that needs to be looked after, and Brazil, the United States, Argentina, and other countries have worked hard to stick together on this.

There was a meeting about six or eight weeks ago of our security people who tried to put in a little money to monitoring the area. I think all the governments in the area are trying to keep an eye on it.

QUESTION: General Hill said, in a speech last February 3rd that he reiterated last week that the military -- he sees the importance of the countries that have restrictions for their military to participate in antinarcotic activities and police activities should lift, should remove those. And that has created a sort of a negative reaction in Brazil, because we know that your military followed the same sort of rule that the military here don't to do police work, so there was an editorial in my paper about this. Is that position that the general is expressing US policy, or is there -- how should we understand that?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I think first, every country has to set its own rules. Brazil is a democracy, the United States is a democracy, and everybody's got their own rules. I think what we've all been trying to say is that some of the strict channels that we all used to work in before the 11th of September, they are worth looking at again.

The perfect example for us is Colombia. Our military forces were assisting Colombians in the counternarcotics effort. But after the 11th of September, and after the Colombians did more to defend their own democracy, we went to our Congress and we said, "Let's expand what U.S. military forces can advise the Colombians on, from counterdrugs to include counterterrorism." And we did expand that. And so we're doing some different things now in Colombia, with Colombians and for Colombians. So everybody's got to take a look at these things.

If you go back to the old days before September 11th or four or five years ago, the threats were all in stricter boxes. Threats are not in such strict boxes anymore. When you think back to after the 11th of September in the United States, the first casualties of the war on terrorism after the 11th of September in the United States were postal workers who died in an anthrax attack. So this becomes a more complicated issue of national security. But I just emphasize again that every country has to make its own decisions.

QUESTION: So far Mr. Grossman, how do you see this new role that Brazil wants to have in South America and in Latin America as a potential, you know, leader in the region, a regional leader? How do you see this?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Brazil is already a regional leader. Brazil is an important, big country that, as I say, is an essential partner for the United States. And we've always tried to respect Brazil's importance in the area. It's why President Bush was so quick to have President Lula here last December. It's why we want to co-chair with you this Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiation. It's why we try to pay attention to Brazil. We want countries in the region to be successful, and we want Brazil to be successful, too. So this doesn't bother us. It's actually quite a good thing, and something that we support.

QUESTION: But how do you see, for example, the Brazil ambition, very old ambition, to be a permanent member of the Security Council at the UN?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Well, we've always been for expanding the Security Council. We've talked about Germany and Japan, and I think that's our policy at the moment. There's lots of countries, important countries, that would also like to be Security Council members, so I can't really comment, other than what we said before.

QUESTION: What about, you know, the reform of the Security Council after these, you know, these tensions, geopolitical tensions there? And how do you see, you know, in the horizon the prospects of reform of the Security Council?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It's a good question, but we're trying to do one thing at a time here. And the thing we're trying to do now is get a second resolution through the Security Council as it exists. And we'll see how that plays out. I should have an answer to your question, but I really don't today.

QUESTION: What are the potential repercussions, do you think, of the vote and to, considering all the scenarios there are, you know, for inter-American relations, for things like FTA -- are you worried about the implications of this, not only the vote at the UN, because there are two Latin American countries --


QUESTION: There are two members.


QUESTION: -- and also the repercussions of a possible conflict if President Bush decides to order troops to invade Iraq? Does it -- what are the potential implications, in your view, for inter-American relations of this world-shattering kind of episode?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: First, we are working hard with Mexico and Chile as members of the Security Council. They have a big decision to make and we hope that they will make a decision that's good for them and good for us. We believe that such a decision exists, which can be good for them and good for us simultaneously.

In terms of the impact on inter-American relations, I would think, first of all, that all the countries in the hemisphere, very much including the United States, would like to see a successful UN Security Council, and I leave aside how many members it has at the moment.

But I think it's good for everybody that the Security Council be effective. And I worry that after a very effective vote on the 8th of November for UN Security Council Resolution 1441, that some countries have lost the logic of the UN Security Council, which is that if you have a policy, and you're prepared to back it up, you do have to back it up with the threat of force. And so I think all countries ought to be in favor of a unified and successful Security Council.

Beyond that, we are dealing with this problem in Iraq because Saddam Hussein hasn't disarmed in 12 years. And I would think that every country in the region will be better off when Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime has no weapons of mass destruction. Because yes, September the 11th happened in New York and Washington and in Pennsylvania, but airplanes could fly into any buildings, and if they had weapons of mass destruction, this is a much bigger problem.

And countries in Latin America -- Argentina, for example, or Colombia, for example, have been the subjects of terrorist attacks.

QUESTION: The reluctance of the Mexicans and the Chileans to support the U.S. on this reflects, obviously, the apprehension of their own societies about this. If it was up to, personally, to President Lagos or to President Fox, I'm sure that they would have already decided they would support.

The same apprehensions exist in all of our societies. The positions, the apprehensions, the problems that the Mexicans and the Chileans are presenting to you to support what the United States wants to do is very much shared.


QUESTION: How do you explain to the people, to those societies, the idea that the United States, you know, the country of democracy, et cetera, may go ahead attacking a country without having been directly provoked by that country?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: First, Mexico and Chile are democracies and they will have to make their own decisions.

Of course there is a lot of questioning in this world, especially in democracies, about going to war. There ought to be. War is a very serious matter, and no one who lives in a democracy thinks that anyone else in another democracy shouldn't have the right to debate this. That's the good thing about being democracies.

What we say is that Saddam Hussein has looked at the world community for 12 years now and said, "The heck with you. I don't listen to any of your speeches. I don't care about any of your Security Council resolutions. I'm not interested in disarming."

And in our view, the 11th of September changes the way that you think about your national security. And if Saddam Hussein was able to give these weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, the threat to Brazil, the threat to Mexico, the threat to Chile, the threat to the United States, the threat to Canada goes up exponentially. And we're in a world now where we have to deal with that threat.

So when you say, sir, that he poses no threat to the United States, I say he does pose a threat to the United States. He also poses a threat to the international system, because for 12 years he's made the United Nations Security Council look like a fool. And third, I would say that you're absolutely right about Mexico and Chile. If they were left to their own devices, or left to their own, they would make their own decisions. But countries work hard to get onto the Security Council, and then when they're on the Security Council they take on additional responsibilities. They take on worldwide responsibilities.

So this is a matter for Mexico, I recognize, and a matter for Chile, I recognize, but it's also a matter for them now as Security Council members for these two years, and they have to lift up their sights and say, "We are now spokespeople for the international system and protectors and defenders of the international system." I mean, it's what now, 4,230-some-odd days since Saddam Hussein was asked to disarm in 1991. Where is it? I don't see it.

QUESTION: The inter-American dialogue planted a document three weeks ago here in Washington. Former President Fernando Henrique was here, and they said that America is looking for Latin America, like opportunities to make business and not concerned about the problems of poverty, and that it's putting democracy in threat there.

What do you have to say about this?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: First, I would say that that is the reason that Brazil and the United States should work together so energetically on the Free Trade Area of the Americas. I believe that it is free trade that will be part of the answer, not the whole answer, but a big part of the answer to poverty in our hemisphere, which really must be dealt with.

The second thing I would say is, is that misses completely the whole idea of the Millennium Challenge Account. Where did President Bush announce this? In Monterrey, Mexico, in our hemisphere. Now there are a lot of countries in Latin America that would be -- that are too rich for the Millennium Challenge Account, but there are other countries who might qualify, and that will help bring people out of poverty.

And third, I do believe that we kind of missed an opportunity in not going back to the Quebec Summit statement of leaders talking about prosperity and security and democracy, and all these things have to go together.

If you look at the amount of imports that come into the United States from all of Latin America, including the Andean Trade Preferences Act, the other areas of free trade offered by the United States, this is what I believe -- you may disagree -- but I believe trade will play the biggest role in getting the largest number of people out of poverty.

I saw a statistic the other day that America's trade deficit, i.e., what we're buying from other people is $450 billion, which I think is close to the total of Brazil's GDP. So I think you need to put this in perspective here.

I'll give you another example -- the Andean Trade Preferences Act. The Colombians used to export in 1960 to the United States $20,000 worth of cut flowers: last year that was a $600 million dollar a year business. So who's employed in that? Thousands and thousands of Colombians, and in fact, 80 percent of the people in the cut flower business in Colombia are rural women.

And so I don't say it's the whole answer, and I admire what President Lula talks about, about social equality and fairness, and we want those things, too. But I believe that free trade and the ability of countries like Brazil and the United States to trade freely is what's going to bring people out of poverty.

QUESTION: Sir, although you're not the trade negotiator, but just to put to you something that Mr. Amorim, the Foreign Minister in Brazil said the other day that he believes that because the things that are so very important to us, either in the FTA negotiations or in the negotiations with the European Union, are concessions we need from you that you cannot give us outside of the context of the WTO negotiations: the subsidies on agriculture, dumping rules, et cetera, that he thinks that we may have to postpone all of this and wait until you get this WTO.

And other people say, well, you know, the United States and the European Union, for that matter, will have to show to America soon what are the things, what are the real advantages aimed for Brazil and others, in concrete added access to markets, before those big ones are resolved that will justify that people in Brazil that are in favor of FTA,


QUESTION: To tell the Brazil, "Guys, we are going to lose some here, but we are going to win more."


QUESTION: How do you put that together? Where do you see this coming from?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: As you say, I'm not the trade negotiator, but two points: one is, is that the fact that FTAA and the DOHA round are both 2005 ought to be a helpful thing for the negotiators, I would think.


UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: And since the negotiators in this area, Bob Zoellick and his Brazilian counterparts are smart people, I don't think it's a coincidence that these 2005 dates are the same.

So of course they're connected, and it's one of the reasons that we have put down in the WTO such a radical package to end agricultural subsidies. It's a very exciting thing, and it ought to help on the FTAA side.

The second thing I would say is that of course everybody in Brazil needs to be convinced that this is a good deal for Brazil, and just the same way as people in the United States ought to be convinced it's a good deal for the United States. And it doesn't surprise me that from now until 2005, President Lula and his negotiators, President Bush and his negotiators, will fight for the best deal that they can get. That's what everybody is supposed to do. But in the end, as you say, people will step back, they'll look at the whole package and say, "This is the right thing to do."

QUESTION: What about, you know, a possible summit between Mr. Lula and Mr. Bush this year?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: We look forward to it. I know the President invited President Lula when he was here in December, and I'm sure a date will get set and it will happen.

QUESTION: That's related to that --


QUESTION: -- but there is this other idea of the summit, of the (inaudible) summit, which is sort of, I think Brazil is "Oh, sure," response in terms of -- are the two things connected, in your view?


QUESTION: The two, they are not?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: No, they're not connected, not in my mind, anyway.

QUESTION: Do you have an idea what should happen first? Because President Bush, when he met President Lula (inaudible) I think there was an idea about spring -- April, May, something like --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Right, that's correct. I know that there's no date certain set, but I would not tie it to anything else, sir.

QUESTION: If you'll allow just one thing, just quickly, a specific point.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Yes, that's all right.

QUESTION: There is one issue, and I just wanted to know if this is a concern of the United States Government or not.

There is an American company that made an investment in Brazil, in the electric sector, called AES. Actually, they made an investment with money that we lent to prove that we are a non-discriminating country, the Brazilian --

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: You, personally, or Brazil?


QUESTION: No, I don't have that kind of money.

QUESTION: It's an official bank.

QUESTION: It's an official bank, that they borrowed $1.2 billion from us to buy a state company.


QUESTION: And then, the electric sector went sour, it said, and the fact that they didn't pay, they are not paying the loan. And while there is this try to do that in the United States, the land they will repossess, and there is a tension here. Obviously, the company also didn't, was not paid by the city halls office.


QUESTION: It's a very nice mess for a diplomat to get into.

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: It sounds like, actually, a very good mess to stay out of.

QUESTION: Is there -- I don't know -- has this type of subject, this theme -- because sometimes I see statements by people lower in the administration, lower ranks, making statements about this. And I wanted to gauge, is this part of the discussion between the two governments right now or not?

QUESTION: Is it an issue?

QUESTION: Is it an issue?

UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I don't know the answer to that question. But because just like Brazil would want to support Brazilian companies around the world, the United States will support American companies around the world, so I'm sure Ambassador Hrinak and others are taking this up.

If you ask me was it a subject of discussion the last time I was with my Under Secretary counterpart? No. But our policy is to support American companies, and I don't have the slightest doubt that Ambassador Hrinak and her team are doing just that.


UNDER SECRETARY GROSSMAN: Yes, thanks a lot. [End]

Released on March 19, 2003

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