Mutiny in South America?

Dan Grech Mar 9, 2007


SCOTT JAGOW: President Bush is at a fuel depot in Brazil this morning. There, he’ll sign an ethanol deal with Brazil’s president. Both of them are keen on using less oil and more biofuels. In Brazil, sugar-based ethanol. Here in the U.S., corn-based. But some protestors in Brazil are worried what the two presidents really have in mind is an OPEC-like cartel for ethanol. Bush’s next stop in South America is Uruguay. Dan Grech reports from our Americas Desk at WLRN.

DAN GRECH: Uruguay is part of a five-nation regional customs partnership called Mercosur. As such, the country is prevented from negotiating trade deals independently.

That has Uruguay’s political leaders saying they feel trapped by its much larger Mercosur partners, Argentina and Brazil.

ANDRES OPPENHEIMER: They’re a small country. They don’t have economic power, they don’t have military power. What they have is diplomatic power.

That’s syndicated columnist Andres Oppenheimer with The Miami Herald.

The country has initiated trade talks with the U.S., and it’s threatening to downgrade its status in Mercosur. Oppenheimer calls this gamesmanship.

OPPENHEIMER: They’re going to use this flirtation with the U.S. to get better conditions within their own South American trade union.

And it’s working. Last week Brazil said it’s willing to give Uruguay more flexibility to make trade deals outside the bloc.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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