- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent her time in Brazil late last month lavishing all sorts of high praise on the country’s leftist president during her Latin American tour to promote the administration’s free trade agenda.

Despite his strong communist bona fides, President Lula da Silva was clearly being feted by Miss Rice as a strategic ally to balance the antics of Hugo Chavez’s oil-rich Venezuela.

But Brazil presents the U.S. with a set of challenges — commercially and geopolitically — as serious as those posed by Venezuela or Cuba. Did Miss Rice miss the target?

Brazil — particularly its President Lula da Silva — is one of those Washington conundrums: an antagonist of American policy but one strangely treated like a partner and ally.

Lula’s younger days of communist rallies and his long ties to Fidel Castro are unmentioned in Washington. But his country’s out-of-control theft of American intellectual property may dredge all of that up.

Relations between Sao Paulo and Washington have become heated of late at a time when Brazil is trying to increase its stature on the world stage. Even as Miss Rice stood beside Lula at press conferences, the Brazilian government was telling the media it would confiscate AIDS drug patents from American companies, saying it could not afford the drugs. Days later, this hemispheric power with a thriving aerospace industry predicted it would gain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Brazil’s trade violations and abandonment of intellectual property rights are well known, and it must be treated by Washington as the global power it is. Some groups have even asked the U.S. to rescind Brazil’s trade privileges with our country — worth almost $3 billion in duty-free imports — because of chronic inability to stabilize the software and entertainment piracy emanating from Brazil. However, the administration failed to punish Brazil. As in national security generally, weakness is provocative and strength deters.

Our weakness with this IP Axis member has encouraged more and more blatant, violations. As bad as Brazil’s behavior has been, it now threatens to get even worse — to go into outright theft of U.S. patents.

Brazil is far from acting like a normal trading partner; its rampant theft of our intellectual property must top Miss Rice’s agenda. While the normal State Department types want a secretarial visit to be all smiles — and good fashion — this issue is too serious to grin about.

“The IP Axis of Evil” — that’s what Brazil, India and China were cleverly dubbed by former President George Bush I and current New America Foundation scholar James Pinkerton. All legs of this Axis should get the message that the Bush administration means business now.

When America became independent, our Founders faced a serious threat from piracy. Today, America faces a different piracy threat — theft of our intellectual property, whose industries account for more than 10 percent of our work force and 15+ percent of our nation’s gross domestic product.

The stakes of this modern piracy are high. IP theft has already cost the U.S. some 750,000 jobs. It costs our businesses a whopping $200 billion yearly, the U.S. Customs Service says.

This war is waged on many fronts: music, software, films and pharmaceuticals the most flagrant. It must be waged against many foes: Brazil, China and India foremost among them.

Lula himself — whose communist ties equal those of Mr. Chavez’s — is certainly the ringleader among Latin America’s “Big Men” and an unabashed critic of American wealth. Miss Rice should try to use the same tough talk she has deployed famously over the years to address not only his government’s aggressive theft of American intellectual property but also to size up the man whose past seems to have escaped the Washington elite.

It was Lula, after all, who with Mr. Castro in 1990, founded the Sao Paolo Forum, a sort of informal political network that includes four groups designated by our State Department as terrorist organizations.

At a minimum, Lula’s political past and his government’s earnest commitment to premeditated theft of American assets should prompt the administration to stop considering Brazil a good partner and its president a great friend until they demonstrate a stronger commitment to the Rule of Law and free trade. Regrettably, the administration last week failed to deliver even a whisper of this message in Brazil.

Ken Adelman was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and arms control director under President Reagan.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide