- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2003

When President Bush met recently with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, the agenda was predictably focused on trade. The United States and Brazil are not only co-chairing talks for creating a free-trade zone in the Americas, they will also, in effect, determine the timing and terms of the hemispheric free-trade zone. The other countries will for the most part be spectators of U.S.-Brazilian negotiations.

But there was also something else at play. The Brazilian president is seeking to warm up relations with the United States, and he is the first leader to oppose the Iraq war that Mr. Bush has received in Washington. The U.S.-Brazilian summit, the largest since America persuaded Brazil to join the war effort during World War II, represents the Bush administration’s widening foreign policy agenda in wake of the Iraq war.

Since the developing world is growing in economic and geo-political importance, America’s friendship with Brazil is important. France recently sought to bolster its global clout by inviting emerging world leaders to a meeting traditionally reserved for the world’s richest countries, but the United States is a more natural ally of developing countries. The Bush administration has pushed for dismantling the kind of trade-distorting subsidies that seriously impair growth in poor countries, particularly in agriculture, and has launched an ambitious global initiative to combat AIDS. Unfortunately, Brazil has the potential of becoming something of a problem for the United States. Mr. da Silva has recently struck a “strategic alliance” relationship with China, presumably in a bid to bolster its own sphere of influence and create a counterweight to U.S. power.

If rhetoric is any indicator, the U.S.-Brazilian friendship was strengthened during the tete-a-tete last week. “This relationship is a vital and important and growing relationship,” said Mr. Bush afterward. “On a personal prospective, I am very impressed by the vision of the president of Brazil. He not only has a tremendous heart, but he has got the abilities to encourage prosperity and to end hunger.”

Mr. da Silva said, “Without any question, I believe that we can surprise the world in terms of the relationship between Brazil and the United States.”

Still, disagreements over a free-trade zone will likely persist. While the United States wants to negotiate the reduction of farm subsidies in the global trade round, Brazil wants the issue on the table for hemispheric talks.

But real work was accomplished. The countries signed an energy cooperation pact, agreeing to consult in such areas as nuclear and hydrogen energy, electricity modernization and renewable energy. Also, the parties launched joint initiatives, ranging from agriculture to energy to health programs, and discussed problems in Colombia and Venezuela. Both countries have a clear and present interest in seeing these initiatives gain steam.

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