Piracy remains main obstacle to the FTAA


By Sergio Leo From Brasília, Economic Value - 10/01/2005

Photo: AP Photo / Victor Ruiz Caballero

Robert Zoellick: new position in the American government brings more uncertainties towards the negotiations for the formation of the Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas

The main obstacle to resume negotiations in the Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas (FTAA) is the inclusion of devices in the future agreement, required by the United States, to guarantee the defense of trademarks and patents against piracy. This was one of the informal conclusions of the Itamaraty technical group that met, on Friday, in Brasilia, with the Brazilian co-president of the FTAA negotiations, ambassador Adhemar Bahadian.

The appointment of the main American negotiator, the commercial representative of the United States, Robert Zoellick, to act as undersecretary of state raised doubts at Itamaraty about the next steps in the negotiation.

After an exchange of letters, last year, a meeting was scheduled between Zoellick and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Celso Amorim, to discuss the course of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the future steps to resume the FTAA discussions. They are due to meet on January 30 in Davos, Switzerland, but Zoellick's change of position left diplomats in doubt about the results of that meeting, which would have to be endorsed by the future US Trade Representative (USTR) , in the acronym in English, kind of Ministry of Foreign Trade).

The meeting between Zoellick and Amorim should outline the guidelines to be detailed by the FTAA co-chairs, Bahadian and Peter Allgeier, the deputy American trade representative. Bahadian and Allgeier were trying to set the agenda for a meeting likely in Washington during Carnival. Both will then decide whether to convene a new ministerial meeting of the 34 countries or hold a meeting with a smaller group first, as they have done in previous attempts.

Confirmation of Zoellick's transfer arrived at Itamaraty after lunch, on Friday, and diplomats believe it will take time for it to take effect, which would allow the American to advance in conversations with Amorim.

At the meeting held by the Brazilians on Friday, the advances and obstacles in the negotiation with Bahadian were raised, which was practically paralyzed last year. The Brazilian government must resist American pressure to include measures in the FTAA aimed at ensuring compliance with intellectual property protection laws. The government is in favor of defending trademarks and patents, but fears that their inclusion in the FTAA will serve as a pretext for commercial retaliations based on other motivations.

At one point, Brazilians consider themselves much more liberal than Americans: Itamaraty wants no product to be excluded from the list of goods that will have the import tariff reduced to zero in the future FTAA (although it is possible to negotiate long terms for this reduction ). In one of the last negotiation meetings, the Americans proposed the creation of a list of products with no fixed term for eliminating tariffs. Brazilian diplomats fear that the country's most interesting products will be placed on that list.

The delegation of Brazil must also insist on the inclusion of provisions so that anti-dumping barriers raised between future members of the free trade area must be preceded by consultations with the affected countries.

The United States refuses to include the topic in the FTAA. In practice, however, according to a diplomat accompanying the negotiations, the Brazilian government could reduce its commitment to anti-dumping measures and other controversial issues in exchange for the definitive exclusion of American proposals regarding compliance with trademark and patent laws.

Bahadian does not confirm the content of the technical discussions of the Brazilian team, but agrees that Brazil would accept a proposal that concentrates discussions on reducing import tariffs and barriers to trade, the so-called "access to markets", in the negotiating jargon. "For us it was always interesting to discuss access to markets, to see what the package on offer is," he told Valor. “Today we already know what the package is in the discussion between Mercosur and the European Union. The FTAA must do the same ”.