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Last updated: July 11, 2006 10:33 pm

Lula to promote Doha talks during G8 summit

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President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil will try to give new impetus to the struggling Doha round of world trade talks during the St Petersburg summit.

Although trade is not on the formal agenda of the Group of Eight summit, Mr Lula da Silva told the Financial Times in an interview: “It is not possible that the presidents of the most important countries in the world can meet and the most important subject in the world not be discussed.”

The leaders of Brazil, India – heavyweights in the trade talks – and China will be attending a special meeting with G8 leaders on Monday morning. But the Brazilian president said a separate meeting could take place without Russia, which does not yet belong to the World Trade Organisation although it hopes to join soon. “We have to do it, even if it’s only for a two-hour meeting,” Mr Lula da Silva said. “Our representatives at the negotiating table are snookered . . . so the leaders have to say whether they want [progress] or not.”

Mr Lula da Silva praised the stance of Tony Blair, British prime minister, Angela Merkel of Germany and George W. Bush of the US, who he said were sympathetic to an agreement under the Doha round. But he said President Jacques Chirac of France had “a much tougher position defending French farmers, and his position counts for a lot in Europe”.

Brazil has played an important role in giving voice to poorer agricultural economies through the G20 group of developing nations. Mr Lula da Silva reiterated the need for the US to reduce agricultural subsidies and the European Union to lower barriers to farm imports. He said such moves would form two legs of a triangle for progress, the third being access for manufactured goods to developing markets.

Mr Lula da Silva said electoral considerations were undermining the prospects for progress at the Doha round. “Because [the problem] is not economic, it is electoral. [Leaders are] thinking about the next election.” Mr Lula da Silva faces an election in October.

Separately, Mr Lula da Silva welcomed last week’s entry of Venezuela into Mercosur, the South American trade pact. He said it opened up new opportunities to pursue economic integration on the continent, arguing that Venezuelan oil resources would enhance the prospects for funding infrastructure projects.

He played down concerns over the growing influence in the region of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s radical anti-US leader, saying he and Néstor Kirchner of Argentina were pressing Mr Chávez to “take the tension” out of international relations.

He also took a sanguine view of a recent crisis between Brazil and Bolivia over the expatriation of assets belonging to Petrobrás, the Brazilian government-controlled oil group, in Bolivia’s natural gas industry. He said he had been urged to take a more confrontational stance by rightwing critics but preferred “to let the dust settle”.

“I have spoken to [Bolivian] President Evo Morales and we have reached a common point of view over gas,” he said. Brazil’s national development bank is considering extending loans to Bolivia for infrastructure projects.

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