Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Trade, ethanol top agenda at second Bush, Lula meeting


The backdrop is different, but the issues are the same for US President George W. Bush's second meeting with the president of Brazil in less than a month.

Trade and ethanol topped the agenda at Bush's meeting three weeks ago with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Sao Paulo, Bush's first stop on his five-country tour of Latin America.

These were to be the top two issues when the two leaders met yesterday at the secluded Camp David presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains, Maryland.

Silva, the first Latin American leader Bush has hosted at Camp David, hopes to advance a biofuels alliance and help break a deadlock in world trade talks known as the Doha Round.


The talks, named for the city in Qatar where they were launched in 2001, stalled last year because developing countries were upset by rich states' refusal to significantly cut farm subsidies and by wealthy countries' demand for greater access to markets in the developing world.

No major breakthrough on those talks is expected at Camp David.

"It's going to take more countries than just the United States and Brazil," Dan Fisk, the National Security Council's senior director of Western Hemisphere affairs, said on Friday.

"What the two presidents want to review is where we are and what needs to be done and what President Bush and President Lula can do to move forward," he said.

Ethanol MOU

The two leaders' talks on ethanol will follow up a memorandum of understanding to promote international trade in ethanol that the two states signed when Bush visited Brazil on March 9.

Fisk said the two hoped to announce a handful of Caribbean and Central American countries that will be the beneficiaries of pilot programs for biofuels development.

But Silva on Friday reiterated Brazil's position that the alternative fuel will not gain traction worldwide unless the US drops a US$0.14-per liter tariff on Brazilian ethanol.

"The subsidies provided under [the US'] corn-based ethanol program have spurred an increase in US cereal prices of about 80 percent," Silva wrote in a column published in the Washington Post. "This hurts meat and soy processors worldwide and threatens global food security."

The promotion of ethanol could eventually help wean the US off its need for foreign oil, officials said, lessening the energy dependence on volatile Middle Eastern states and Venezuela -- whose president has long been a political thorn in the Bush administration's side.

But teaming up with Brazil on the promotion of ethanol has not pleased everyone. Corn farmers in the US do not like the idea of the government helping Brazil's ethanol industry, which they see as a competitor. Lawmakers from corn-growing states have registered their complaints with Bush.

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