Cablegate: Brazil: No Post-Cancun Regrets or Second Thoughts

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





E.O. 12958: N/A
REFS: (A) Brasilia 3089, (B) Brasilia 3070 (C) Brasilia 2233

1. (U) All public and official signs are that the GoB still feels solid self-satisfaction over its performance at Cancun. It displays zero compunction over Cancun's collapse or the possible damage to the WTO's future, while reaffirming that the WTO remains the planet's indispensable multi-lateral trade-policy forum. This general sentiment seems to reign across the spectrum of Brazilian opinion, aside from a few muted worries or warnings by independent commentators. The common if vague Brazilian sense is that the G-21's actions constituted an overdue, laudably successful demand to be taken seriously, and that any adverse reaction by the U.S. or EU simply demonstrates that the rich-country club is loath to accept developing countries' standing up to defend their rights.

2. (U) USTR Zoellick's September 22 Financial Times opinion column ("America will not wait for the won't-do countries") unquestionably hit a sensitive spot. It was published the next day in Portuguese translation by top circulation daily `Folha de Sao Paulo,' and no-one in the GoB pretended to doubt that USTR's criticisms were aimed squarely at Brazil. However, those criticisms from abroad have had no evident effect in swaying Brazilian opinion.

3. (U) If anything, official reaction to the column has just further tightened the GoB's rhetorical ranks. Finance Minister Palocci: "Brazil has been characterized in this episode and in others by a clear will to negotiate. There is no reason to doubt the decision, the will, and the potential of Brazil and its partners in the negotiations." Agriculture Minister Rodrigues: "Zoellick's statement was a mistake." Development Minister Furlan: "Brazil is simply putting its interest on the table, knowing that a negotiation means give and take." Less restrainedly on the non-government side, Folha columnist Clovis Rossi summed up that "Zoellick's op-ed is an open declaration of war on Brazil, with the explicit threat of leaving the country behind in trade negotiations."

4. (U) Foreign Minister Amorim himself, in an official release, responded unrepentantly to the USTR op-ed, inter alia by saying that "Having maintained a constructive position, Brazil does not consider it useful to be involved in an exercise of blame over the difficulty of reaching consensus in Cancun." See full substantive text of the Itamaraty release below at Para 10. Media have since quoted Amorim as asserting that "(i)f someone changed, it was the United States and not Brazil. The position defended by Brazil in Cancun coincides 70% to 80% with the earlier U.S. position." (NOTE: presumably referring to specific agricultural issues such as export-subsidy phase-out. END NOTE.) President Lula is reported to have publicly echoed this assertion on September 25 in New York.

5. (U) The Brazilians continue to declare that Cancun has not altered the WTO's status as the world's legitimate, necessary forum for multilateral trade negotiations. The Itamaraty release includes the declaration: "From Brazil's perspective, what is most important now is, in accordance with the declaration approved in Cancun by the ministers, to promptly resume the negotiations in Geneva." FM Amorim repeatedly asserted in his September 17 testimony to Brazil's Congress that resumption of WTO and Doha-Round business as usual may at worst suffer a six or twelve-month delay (Ref B).

6. (U) FM Amorim as well as presidential foreign policy advisor Marco Aurlio Garcia have also gone out of their way to deny that the GoB's trade-policy course is a product of any "anti-American" bias. Amorim told Brazil's Congress that "the relationship between Brazil and the United States has never been as good as now," and that official and unofficial sources confide to him that President Bush "has only made praiseworthy references to Lula." Amorim seemed to dismiss the notion that Cancun will have far-reaching consequences for trade talks or relations with the U.S., saying that occasional criticisms during trade and political talks are just "part of the game." (Ref B.)

7. (U) In like vein, top national dailies made much of the report that, just one day after USTR's criticism of Brazil's position at Cancun, U.S. Treasury Secretary Snow spoke to Brazilian Foreign Minister Palocci in Dubai in complimentary tones. "We spoke about Cancun, and (Snow) made it very clear that the U.S. government will continue with its multilateral agenda of trade negotiations, and that they have great interest in keeping a close cooperation with Brazil," Palocci was quoted repeatedly.

8. (SBU) There are a few well-informed exceptions to the breezy trend. Aside from the occasional media commentator warning that Brazil will be left behind in a future process of bilateral trade negotiations, these include Itamaraty U/S for WTO Clodoaldo Hugueney. Over lunch with us on September 25, Hugueney left no doubt that he felt "the Doha train had been derailed," due, in his judgment, to poor preparation that had left the WTO leadership badly unaware of the state of play over Singapore issues. Hugueney said he believed that, were it not for the abrupt Singapore-issue fiasco, Cancun could have produced an agricultural paper "albeit with brackets" that could have met minimum Doha-Round needs. Now, it was hard to see how a way out or forward could be found, he opined.

9. (U) In public, the GoB front remains united behind Itamaraty, but there is the occasional suggestion of dissension in the ranks. One post-Cancun media article has referred to Ministers Furlan, Palocci and Rodrigues lining up against Itamaraty over a specific trade-policy issue at a recent meeting of the CAMEX. Supposedly, they rejected Itamaraty's advocacy that Brazil unilaterally revise its schedule for submission of FTAA offers. It was not plain from the article whether the offers in question are ones Brazil has already made, on schedule, or ones for the well- known areas vis-a-vis which Brazil is already months behind the FTAA timetable.

10. (U) Following is the Itamaraty release responding to USTR Zoellick's September 22 opinion piece in the Financial Times. (Begin text) In regard to the article published today (.) by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), about the results of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) - in which Brazil is explicitly cited five times - Minister Celso Amorim has the following comments to make:

-- each country has the right to present its own evaluation of Cancun;

-- Brazil, secure that it maintained a constructive position, does not consider it useful to get involved in the attribution of guilt over the difficulties in reaching a consensus in Cancun;

-- Brazil would rather focus on strengthening the WTO, in coordination with trade partners that are interested in the liberalization of agricultural trade and in the elimination of subsidies, according to the Doha mandate;

-- if the explicit references to Brazil reflect the importance that is attributed to our performance in the WTO, this criticism, either implicit or explicit, comes in contrast with the comments made by the USTR to the head of the Brazilian delegation - on the eve of the closing of the conference - that the declaration made just hours before in the name of the G-20 "plus" had been "businesslike," which constituted in and of itself a positive indication;

-- this criticism is also surprising because, until recently, the United States shared in large measure the same level of ambition expressed by the G-20 "plus" in regard to the three pillars of agricultural trade reform; -- from Brazil's perspective, what is most important now is, in accordance with the declaration approved in Cancun by the ministers, to promptly resume the negotiations in Geneva;

-- Brazil will continue to commit itself to building genuine consensus leading towards the legitimate aspirations of all participants, especially developing countries. (End Text of Statement)

COMMENT -------

11. (SBU) We judge there to be little chance in coming weeks of the GoB repenting or reforming its recent Cancun actions and current trade-policy attitude. Ill-advised and ultimately damaging to Brazil itself though they may prove, those actions and attitude have not been a matter of caprice. They have evolved consistently from the stew of GoB priorities and considerations -- political, social, developmental as well as "just" commercial -- which we tried to describe in detail last July in Ref C, and recently updated in Ref A. Politically, Lula, FM Amorim and Congress alike for now perceive this as a sure domestic and international winner.

12. (SBU) We credit the GoB with believing its own rhetoric that it will be better to delay than to accept a "bad" deal, i.e., one insufficiently attentive to their demands. Implicit in its position is the assumption that trade talks cannot move forward without Brazil, that, in effect, the latter has a kind of veto on real progress. One positive aspect to underline is that, despite what we do see as tinges of 1970s ideological antipathy amongst the professional castes of Itamaraty, GoB actions are not/not being propelled by anti-U.S. antagonism. On the contrary: the GoB is unrealistically counting on being able to both have its cake and eat it -- to stand up to the rich nations with developing- country demands, while paying little or no price in terms either of the WTO's future effectiveness or of overall bilateral relations with the U.S.


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