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Cablegate: What's Behind Brazil's Ftaa Policy

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/16/2013
SUBJECT: WHAT'S BEHIND BRAZIL'S FTAA POLICY Classified By: Janice Fair, Economic Officer for Reason Section 1.5 (b) and (d)

1. (U) The description that follows of the political and economic factors helping to shape Brazil's trade policy, and specifically its approach to the FTAA negotiations, is offered to assist U.S. policymakers in determining whether and how enough common ground can be found to conclude the FTAA process successfully.

2. (C) Summary and introduction. A number of concurrent forces are moving Brazil along its present FTAA trajectory. These forces, or considerations for formulating policy, are sometimes contradictory and may have led to some GOB miscalculation on how best to achieve Brazil's interests within the FTAA as well as the degree of hemispheric support it would receive for its ideas to restructure the negotiations. Brazil's political goals, which include a leadership role in South America along with a strong focus on development and the social agenda, sometimes clash in its pursuit of certain national economic interests. However, the GOB's vision of a reformulated FTAA is solidly rooted in its perception of national interest and of the outcome required for Brazil to benefit from the FTAA. The newly-elaborated three-track approach is not simply a negotiating ploy. Brazil's FTAA calculation has always differed from that of other countries in the hemisphere. For Brazil, the bottom line is improved access to the U.S. market for its agricultural and industrial goods, not regional rules for attracting foreign direct investment.

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3. (C) Despite Brazil's strong desire to secure improved access to the U.S. market, the rigid perspective of Itamaraty officials in charge of FTAA policy inclines us to take at face value the GOB claim that it will not continue with the across the board FTAA negotiations as originally envisioned and currently structured. We also suspect that the GOB is currently in a vulnerable stage in its FTAA policy, given the substantial general rebuff of the Mercosul three-track proposal that occurred during the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) meeting in San Salvador July 8-11.

4. (C) Regis Arslanian, unofficially Itamaraty's new policy director for the FTAA and Mercosul-EU negotiations, has suggested privately that a compromise would be possible between Mercosul's three-track proposal and a baseline agreement that he understood the USG to have contemplated (septel). According to Arslanian, a bilateral structure for all market access negotiations is the key element for Brazil. End Summary.

5. (C) As the GOB evaluates potential benefits of an FTAA, assesses the current status of negotiations, and develops proposals to move the negotiations more in line with its perceived interests, we believe the following chief factors impact its deliberations: * Brazil's desire to be a regional political leader and, in particular, to be the driving force behind Mercosul's reinvigoration. * The belief that some Brazilian producers are not sufficiently competitive to benefit from and in fact could lose through a free trade agreement at this time. * The recognition that Brazil needs substantial expansion of exports to attain the economic growth necessary to address its social agenda. *The belief that exports to the United States will continue to grow anyway. * The concern that rules within comprehensive trade agreements may constrain the GOB's ability to design its own preferred economic development policies. * The difficulty in convincing the public and Congress that an FTAA agreement would be a net positive for Brazil. * The existence of divisions and opposition within society and government alike on the direction of Brazil's FTAA policy.


6. (C) The dominant theme in President Lula's foreign policy has been Brazil's role as the natural leader of South American integration, with Mercosul as the cornerstone. Lula has met almost every South American counterpart at least once in the six months since taking office. Press reports that follow such meetings are replete with declarations of solidarity, including references to the need to forge common positions within the FTAA and WTO against developed country protectionism. Brazil has used the granting of BNDES credit lines to Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru to reinforce these regional ties and fidelity to Brazil. However, the GOB may have taken the rhetoric too seriously, confusing no-cost statements of support in public declarations with substantive positions within negotiations. Despite Brazil's efforts to forge closer alliances with countries in the region, it appears that Mercosul's (Brazil's) proposal to reformulate the FTAA was roundly rebuffed in the San Salvador TNC meeting.

7. (C) President Kirchner's election in Argentina has apparently provided Brazil with a like-minded partner to make Mercosul a priority. However, Mercosul remains more important as a political project than an economic one, and at times Brazil's political interests regarding Mercosul appear to blind it to its own economic interests. Virtually all Brazilians now recognize that the Mercosul market is insufficient to provide the export growth Brazil needs.


8. (C) Rather than drawing attention to the new opportunities that a hemisphere-wide trade agreement could present, the FTAA generates fear in Brazil: the widespread perception that many Brazilian industries cannot compete effectively, at least not yet. Although developed country protectionism is always cited as a major problem undermining Brazil's competitiveness, so are internal problems sometimes called the "Brazil cost," i.e., high costs associated with Brazil's tax structure, outdated social security system, labor code, poor education, and, in general, bureaucratic obstacles to commerce. While the GOB is committed to social security and tax reform, it seems to lack faith it can lower the "Brazil cost" sufficiently in the near term to guarantee Brazilian competitiveness in the free trade environment an FTAA agreement would create.


9. (C) The GOB sees export growth as essential for economic growth and job creation. The GOB is still following tight fiscal and monetary policies designed to control the inflation that started to accelerate following last year's 30 percent devaluation of the Real. Foreign direct investment has fallen off and capital in-flows have not recouped following last year's financial uncertainties. Exports grew at a record pace at the beginning of this year, but are expected to taper off somewhat with a strengthened currency. Although the FTAA is a trade negotiation among 34 countries, the GOB has stated clearly that its primary interest is access to the U.S. market for goods. Thus there is a strong incentive for Brazil-led Mercosul to stick with the FTAA if it is clear that achieving a trade agreement with the United States outside the FTAA is highly unlikely.


10. (C) Although seeking improved access to the U.S. market is a high GOB priority, some Brazilians note that exports to the United States continue to grow anyway, even without a trade agreement. The United States is Brazil's largest export market, and officials cite growth in exports to the United States in each of the last seven years as evidence of a trend. Although the GOB wants to negotiate increased access to the U.S. market through the FTAA, it is unlikely that Brazil would choose to do so at any cost.


11. (C) While aggressively seeking increased access to foreign markets to allow for economic development through export growth, the GOB is hesitant to enter into comprehensive trade negotiations -- for example, those that include rules on services, investment and government procurement -- due to fear that these might constrain its ability to develop new economic development policies. Such thinking was reflected in the GOB proposals in late 2002 to changes the WTO TRIMS agreement to, among others, allow performance requirements for investors, and again in Brazil/Mercosul's FTAA goods market access offer that included provisions to protect infant industries. Although not wishing to go all the way back to the inward-looking policies of the sixties, the GOB does appear more concerned about maintaining its freedom of action than about establishing better hemispheric-wide rules for economic activity.


12. (C) Hand-wringing about the FTAA is a daily staple in the Brazilian press, creating a constant sense of pressure and urgency. There isn't a single day when articles speculating about FTAA policy do not appear in the major Brazilian dailies, and reporting in smaller newspapers and magazines on the subject is also prolific. Past rhetoric by Lula and his PT party helped create this hostile climate, and the GOB has increased public doubt and confusion through its own often-conflicting statements. The result has limited the GOB's maneuverability and intensified the leadership challenge it faces in winning domestic approval for any agreement.

13. (C) Opposition to the FTAA is not new in Brazil. Although industries worry about the "Brazil cost" and their own specific competitive aspects, and labor organizations are fearful about employment repercussions and loss of union leadership, the arguments of the most vocal opponents are usually ideological. The emphasis that Lula and Itamaraty have given under the Lula administration to communication with civil society, both domestically and through FTAA hemisphere-wide fora, underscores the GOB's real concern about garnering public support for the FTAA.

14. (C) We believe that concern about deep-seated domestic opposition to an FTAA deal is behind Mercosul's recent proposal to allow participation of private sector and legislative representatives in its official FTAA delegations. In contrast to other countries' concerns about confidentiality and the inflexibility that an expanded SIPDIS delegation composition might introduce into the negotiations, Brazil apparently sees direct participation by these groups as a means of gaining their approval for any eventual agreement. The GOB may also be pushing for a bilateral structure for market access because it would be simpler to explain the trade-offs that were made to reach agreement. Similarly, for Itamaraty a "positive list" approach for services and investment market access makes it easier to convey details on concessions to labor leaders and other social and political leaders.


15. (C) There has been a recent consolidation of power within Itamaraty, first with the replacement of Ambassador Hugueney and now with the replacement of Ambassador Simas, of a group that has viewed the FTAA skeptically for years. By all accounts, the driving force behind current Itamaraty policy is the Secretary-General, Pinheiro Guimaraes. He has been among the Brazilian observers who have for years portrayed an FTAA deal as at worst as a project of the United States to take over the Brazilian economy and at best as a necessary evil.

16. (C) However, not everyone within the diplomatic corps nor within the government agrees with Itamaraty's current FTAA policy. Within other ministries, including the ministries of Agriculture, Development and Finance, there is concern that Itamaraty's minimalist approach does not take proper account of the potential economic benefits to be gained through the FTAA. Nonetheless, Itamaraty has been put in charge of coordinating FTAA policymaking, and we do not believe efforts to exploit differences among ministers would be successful. Attempts to stir the pot in this way would likely only stiffen hardliners and undermine like-minded ministers.


17. (C) As the GOB reflects on its next step(s) given the lack of support for Mercosul's three-track proposal, we believe it will see its scope for movement as very limited. After so publicly arguing for this approach, the GOB will have a hard time abandoning it. Some in the GOB may harbor a sense of being misled, since they took Ambassador Zoellick's presentations in Brasilia in May as an invitation to engage in a dialog about reformulation of the FTAA. Arslanian, for example, said the Brazilian delegation in El Salvador was disappointed that the U.S. side made no mention there of a "baseline" approach.

18. (C) There are intense political and social pressures for Brazil to step back from the broad-based FTAA negotiations as currently configured. Should the GOB fail to obtain structural changes in the negotiations, Brazil is likely to simply go through the motions with the FTAA, refraining from constructive participation. Eventually it might even feel compelled to suspend participation in the negotiations, reluctant as it might be as a regional leader to be seen as the villain who killed the golden egg.

19. (C) The present moment could be an opportune time should the USG decide to explore potential modifications to the FTAA negotiations that would give Brazil some of the political backing it is seeking. As noted above, Regis Arslanian seemed to suggest to econoff that Mercosul could be flexible on a number of areas important to the United States -- services and investment rules, IPR and government procurement within the FTAA -- as long as market access could be negotiated bilaterally. In future discussions the USG may have with the GOB on this issue, we would of course be leaving Brazil in no doubt that it, not the USG, is the demandeur for change in FTAA scope. End Comment.


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