British Prime Minister Tony Blair told President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a telephone call that he is counting on Brazil's help to "save" the Doha round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks.
According to the Brazilian president's spokesman Marcelo Baumbach, Blair stressed in the 20-minute call that the next 48 hours will be decisive for the negotiations and reinforced the offers presented by the United States and the European Union at the meeting held in Potsdam, Germany last week. Blair also urged Brazil to reduce its maximum tariffs on industrial imports from 35 percent to 12.73%. Lula da Silva said that he will continue to favour a less drastic cut on the tariffs, from 35 to 16%. Disagreement with offers from the U.S. and the EU led the representatives of the other two parties, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, to abandon the G4 Summit, aimed at reaching an agreement on the Doha round talks, two days before its deadline. Baumbach said that Lula insisted, in his conversation with Blair, that the lack of equilibrium between what the Round requests and what developed countries actually offered was the main reason for the failure of the talks in Potsdam. The president took the opportunity to resume his proposal of a meeting relying on the participation of world leaders, so that political decisions were made in favour of the accomplishment of Doha. President Lula argued that there is nothing left to be discussed regarding the technical aspects, and that, at the current stage of negotiations, only political will to move forward would lead to a final agreement. "The key is now in the political dialogue and the improvement of offers from wealthier economies" said the spokesman. Blair's intervention followed claims from United States and the European Union that the trade talks had collapsed because of Brazil's intransigence. Brazil's Foreign Affairs minister Celso Amorim was quoted in the business daily Valor Economico stating that U.S. and European negotiators at World Trade Organization talks "agreed in advance to create a comfort zone for each other with reduced cuts in agricultural subsidies and less market access". At the talks in Potsdam, Brazil and India said the United States failed to offer deep enough cuts in the billions of dollars of subsidies it pays annually to American farmers. The EU and the US said Brazil and India had refused to offer new market opportunities for their manufacturing exports. "I could never make an agreement that betrays the interests of Brazil's industrial sector, a betrayal of Mercosur and a betrayal of the G-20 countries that trusted us" Amorin said.