Read Dr. Lafer's comments (PDF)

On Thursday, March 1, the Carnegie Endowment and the Inter-American Dialogue co-sponsored a roundtable discussion with Celso Lafer, Brazil?s new Minister of Foreign Relations. Dr. Lafer, who was in Washington to meet with senior administration policy officials in anticipation of President Cardoso?s upcoming visit, commented on developments in Brazil?s international and regional policies, as well as U.S.-Brazilian bilateral relations. The event offered a wide-ranging and enthusiastic exchange between Dr. Lafer and participants from the academic and policy community.

During both his remarks and the question and answer session, Lafer cautioned that there are still many unresolved issues in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations. He noted that in Brazil, like the US, there is no strong domestic consensus in favor of the FTAA, and the general perception is that much is expected of Brazil and others, while little is offered in return. Brazil's tariffs are currently considerably higher than those in the US, therefore harmonizing tariff rates would require considerable reductions from Brazil, and very little sacrifice on the part of the US. Furthermore, Lafer cited an estimate that 60 % of Brazilian exports to the US face some form of non-tariff barrier. Unless these barriers (anti-dumping, rules of origin, agriculture subsidies and quotas) are placed on the table for negotiation, it will be difficult for Brazil to negotiate an agreement that offers substantial benefits.

Minister Lafer stressed that despite these and other challenges, the Brazilian government is committed to the FTAA negotiation. Rather than discussing specific dates or timetables, he preferred to focus the negotiations on issues and their swift resolution.