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Americas summit ends in deadlock
by BBC (reposted)
Saturday Nov 5th, 2005 7:48 PM
Leaders of 34 nations from across the Americas have failed to find a compromise on a hemispheric free trade zone at their summit in Argentina.
Talks continued beyond the scheduled end of the gathering, as supporters of a US-led proposal sought to set a date to begin detailed negotiations.

The US faced opposition from several Latin American countries, which said the plan could damage their economies.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, said they were "standing like a rock" against it.

With most leaders - including US President George W Bush - already gone from the two-day talks, their representatives signed an annexe to the summit's final declaration with rival viewpoints on the initiative.

Twenty-nine countries said they wanted to resume talks on a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in 2006.

Five others - Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay - insisted on waiting for results of the next World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong next month.

Riots by anti-Bush protesters marked the opening of the summit in the resort town of Mar del Plata on Friday.

'Reduced bloc'

The leaders were hoping to produce a summit declaration which could call for relaunching talks on the proposed FTAA - an idea raised in 1994 at the first Americas summit in Miami.

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by UK Guardian (reposted)
Saturday Nov 5th, 2005 7:55 PM
Violent protests have turned a prestigious foreign policy trip to South America into another public relations catastrophe

Paul Harris
Sunday November 6, 2005
The Observer

President George W Bush was poised for a big new political setback last night as a diplomatic push for a major free trade agreement seemed stalled amid fierce opposition from key countries and scenes of violence and rioting in Argentina and Uruguay.

Bush, who is already beset by a host of domestic political troubles, had hoped for a major foreign policy coup to take some of the pressure off his beleaguered White House. He has put breaking down free trade barriers in the region at the top of the agenda at the Summit of the Americas, which has brought together leaders from 34 different countries in the Argentine city of Mar Del Plata.

But the end of the summit was delayed as talks dragged on inconclusively about a proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). A group of left-leaning countries, headed by Brazil, Venezuela and others, opposed the idea, saying it would open their countries to exploitation by large American firms and do little to alleviate poverty. Bush left the summit before it ended as discussions about whether to adopt a clause scheduling FTAA talks for next year continued past a deadline set for a summit declaration.

Officials said countries were still deeply divided over the issue of setting a date and an opt-out could be included in any final statement. That result is a long way from the clear progress the White House wanted. Officials had wanted a foreign policy win to offset domestic criticism that the general hostility abroad to the war in Iraq had damaged America's ability to promote its interests diplomatically.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said yesterday FTAA discussions should wait until at least after crucial World Trade Organisation talks in December on stripping global trade barriers and boosting the world's economy. Venezuela's firebrand president Hugo Chavez was more strident. On Friday night he told a crowd of more than 20,000 protesters that the policy was a branch of American imperialism. 'Only united can we defeat imperialism and bring our people a better life,' he said, adding: 'Here, in Mar del Plata, FTAA will be buried!'

The summit has exposed deep rifts among the region's countries on the issue of free trade. A large group of countries could now push ahead to create a free trade area without major players like Brazil, Argentina and Venzuela. It has also exposed a critical attitude of many leaders have towards Bush, especially with Chavez. Chavez regularly denounces Bush as 'Mr Danger' in speeches and there was much speculation as to whether the two men would meet face-to-face. However, at the traditional leaders' group photo the pair seemed to keep a safe distance from eachother.

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