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November 23, 2003

Lula: Global Leader of the Left?

This story notes the rise of Brazil's President Lula da Silva to top leadership in negotiations over the hemisphere's trade pact politics.

Growing social movements in Latin America -- those opposing economic policies favored by Washington and the International Monetary Fund -- have forced governments from power in countries from Argentina to Ecuador to Bolivia. And in a number of countries the United States picked as future bilateral trade partners, presidential elections are approaching, creating political uncertainty.

Those movements were brewing a year ago, when the Quito meeting adjourned several hours early because trade ministers could not agree on substantive issues. The key Latin American demand was for more access to U.S. agricultural markets as a way to alleviate the region's poverty.

Yet no one publicly acknowledged the deadlock in regional trade talks until September, after the failed meeting of the World Trade Organization in Cancún, Mexico. There, Brazil took a more activist stand on trade, leading the Group of 21 that opposed the trade agenda of the European Union and the United States.

Last week in Miami, Brazil solidified that central role. Brazilian press briefings were crowded with journalists. Trade ministers wrapped up the talks a day early on Thursday, but this time they celebrated what the Argentine government hailed as a new ''formula'' that allowed the countries to ``put behind us the deadlock we have been in throughout this year.''

The formula was Brazil's design. The two-tier process proposes one level of common obligations for all 34 prospective members and another level where deeper commitments would be voluntary.

Given the power of global capital, Lula has tread carefully in enacting domestic economic policies, but his real challenge to global corporate power seems to be being wielded by gathering the support of developing countries to challenge corporate "free trade" in favor of a regime that actually benefits poorer countries.

Posted by Nathan at November 23, 2003 12:45 PM