Lula's Back in Town


Basking in his recent landslide, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva returns to talking up his alternative to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas:

In his victory speech late Sunday, Lula vowed to strengthen Mercosur — the trade association made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela — and the recently launched Brazil-led Community of South American Nations.

Neither in his speech nor in a subsequent press conference did he mention plans to expand commercial ties with Washington.

"We have like a special passion for Mercosur," Lula said at a later press conference. "When we won the [2002] election, Mercosur was considered a thing of the past. Everybody talked about the [U.S.-backed] Free Trade Area of the Americas….Today, nobody talks about FTAA anymore, and everybody talks about Mercosur."

Andres Oppenheimer (author of the fine book Bordering on Chaos) suggests that "Brazil, Latin America's biggest country, wants to be a world emerging power, much like India, South Africa and China. To belong to that club, Brazil needs to be the leader of South America, which will greatly enhance its international image." I'm not sure I'd include South Africa in that company, but otherwise I think he's right. And, on balance, I think it's a good thing. While I'm not enthusiastic about regional trade agreements, I'm happy to see Brazil offering a rival vision of a global trading order. In two important realms — farm subsidies and intellectual property law — Brasília's positions are preferable to Washington's. The world could use the counterweight.

Footnote: The title is an allusion to this. Or this. Take your pick.