Tag Archive: US


For the first time in more than 30 years, Brazil and the United States are going to sign a military agreement on Monday. This will be the major bilateral military cooperation agreement between the two countries since 1977, when Brazil was still a military dictatorship.  Earlier this week, a senior U.S. government official told The Associated Press that the agreement provides a broad framework for military cooperation but differs from military pacts Washington has with Colombia and its NATO partners. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.”It deals with military exchanges, everything from comparing military equipment to the exchange of students and instructors at military academies,” the official said. “There will be provisions for U.S. Navy ship visits and sharing lessons in peacekeeping.” According to Brazilian press reports, the agreement would create a “multinational, multifunction” base in Rio de Janeiro to monitor drug trafficking.  O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, which broke the story, did not specify what role the US military would play, but the article says that foreigners cannot command operations in Brazil.

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President Lula of Brazil and Barak Obama in a meeting in Washington last year

Until recently, the Obama administration assumed that Brazil and the United States were natural allies who shared many foreign policy interests, particularly in Latin America. This now seems like wishful thinking. Although  President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva and the US leader get on really well, it seems Brazil has decided to follow an independent course. Even commercialy, China has become more important to Brazil than the US. China has just surpassed the United States as Brazil’ s main commercial partner.

Led by resource-rich Brazil, the region is forecast to enjoy 4.1% growth next year, far outpacing the U.S.

By Chris KraulLos Angeles Times

From appliance stores in Brazil to auto assembly lines in Mexico, signs are evident that Latin America has seen the worst of the global economic crisis and is poised for solid expansion.

The region is expected to post economic growth of 4.1% next year, according to a forecast released Thursday by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. That’s a stronger rebound than previously anticipated.

Emerging powerhouse Brazil is expected to lead the way with projected gross domestic product growth of 5.5% in 2010. It should be helped by strengthening foreign demand for its oil, soybeans and other commodities, as well as increased spending by an emerging consumer class that’s helping to keep Brazilian factories humming.

“The most encouraging signs are a recuperation of manufacturing and in foreign trade over the last two quarters,” said Alicia Barcena, the U.N. commission’s executive secretary. “Brazil began to show progress six months ago.”

The agency, which is based in Santiago, Chile, also expects strong growth of 5% from Peru and Uruguay next year. The economies of Bolivia, Chile and Panama are projected to expand 4.5% in 2010.

Even Mexico, whose deeply troubled economy could contract as much as 6.7% this year, will probably outpace the U.S. in 2010. The U.N. commission expects the Mexican GDP to expand 3.5% next year. The U.S. economy is projected to grow at just a 2% rate, according to a recent UCLA forecast.

Hit hard by the global banking crisis and a drop in global demand for commodities earlier this decade, Latin America’s total output of goods and services is expected to shrink 1.8% this year, the commission said.

But the region should recuperate faster this time compared with past global crises, Barcena said. She credited swift government intervention throughout the region to keep credit flowing and to boost public spending.

Those policies included reducing interest rates, increasing lending by state-owned banks, expanding public expenditures and implementing a broad array of social programs, such as consumer subsidies and support for low-income households.

Still, next year’s expansion won’t be enough to fully address social challenges and keep pace with population growth. That would require 5% annual growth, which the region nearly averaged (4.7%) during its boom years from 2003 to 2007, Barcena said. Unemployment in the region will remain a trouble spot, topping 8% this year.

The rosy growth projection for Brazil is just the latest in a string of positive news for the South American giant in recent months. In October, Rio de Janiero was selected to host the 2016 Olympics, while billions of barrels of new oil reserves have been discovered off the nation’s coast.

Meanwhile, Mexico has been slammed by the downturn in the United States, the biggest customer for its manufactured goods. The drop in U.S. auto sales has hit Mexico particularly hard because it is a major producer of vehicles sold in U.S. showrooms.

Slumping remittances have hurt as well. Through October, Mexican laborers working outside the country, mostly in the U.S., sent home $18.1 billion to their families in Mexico, 16% less than in the same period in 2008.

Other remittance-dependent economies, including Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, are forecast to lag behind the region with anemic growth of 2% or less next year, the United Nations commission said.

The report highlighted some unusual winners.

Bolivia had the best-performing economy this year, growing a projected 3.5%. Barcena cited rising prices for minerals, including silver in the San Cristobal mine.

She also credited the government of President Evo Morales for being “very careful with its public finances” and investing wisely in social and fiscal stimulus programs, including monthly welfare checks to its poorest families, which in turn has boosted consumption.

Barcena said Latin America still faced challenges and could be hurt from the fallout from developing crises in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Greece.

“We see things as improving, but there could be stagnancy as well if the world recovery isn’t as dynamic as we’d like,” Barcena said.

Kraul is a special correspondent.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) shakes hands with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, in May 2009. By 2050, Brazil will be the fourth economy in the world. (Xin hua/Rao Aimin)

The New York Times
Chapter 1: The Changing of the Guard

Since 1945 the United States has been the world’s dominant power. Even during the Cold War its economy was far more advanced than, and more than twice as large as, that of the Soviet Union, while its military capability and technological sophistication were much superior. Following the Second World War, the US was the prime mover in the creation of a range of multinational and global institutions, such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and NATO, which were testament to its new-found global power and authority. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 greatly enhanced America’s pre-eminent position, eliminating its main adversary and resulting in the territories and countries of the former Soviet bloc opening their markets and turning in many cases to the US for aid and support.

Never before, not even in the heyday of the British Empire, had a nation’s power enjoyed such a wide reach. The dollar became the world’s preferred currency, with most trade being conducted in it and most reserves held in it. The US dominated all the key global institutions bar the UN, and enjoyed a military presence in every part of the world. Its global position seemed unassailable, and at the turn of the millennium terms like ‘hyperpower’ and ‘unipolarity’ were coined to describe what appeared to be a new and unique form of power.

The baton of pre-eminence, before being passed to the United States, had been held by Europe, especially the major European nations like Britain, France and Germany, and previously, to a much lesser extent, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. From the beginning of Britain’s Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century until the mid twentieth century, Europe was to shape global history in a most profound manner. The engine of Europe’s dynamism was industrialization and its mode of expansion colonial conquest. Even as Europe’s position began to decline after the First the changing of the guard

World War, and precipitously after 1945, the fact that America, the new rising power, was a product of European civilization served as a source of empathy and affinity between the Old World and the New World, giving rise to ties which found expression in the idea of the West while serving to mitigate the effects of latent imperial rivalry between Britain and the United States. For over two centuries the West, first in the form of Europe and subsequently the United States, has dominated the world.

We are now witnessing an historic change which, though still relatively in its infancy, is destined to transform the world. The developed world – which for over a century has meant the West (namely, the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand) plus Japan – is rapidly being overhauled in terms of economic size by the developing world.

In 2001 the developed countries accounted for just over half the world’s GDP, compared with around 60 per cent in 1973. It will be a long time, of course, before even the most advanced of the developing countries acquires the economic and technological sophistication of the developed, but because they collectively account for the overwhelming majority of the world’s population and their economic growth rate has been rather greater than that of the developed world, their rise has already resulted in a significant shift in the balance of global economic power.

There have been several contemporary illustrations of this realignment. After declining for over two decades, commodity prices began to increase around the turn of the century, driven by buoyant economic growth in the developing world, above all from China, until the onset of a global recession reversed this trend, at least in the short run.

Meanwhile, the stellar economic performance of the East Asian economies, with their resulting huge trade surpluses, has enormously swollen their foreign exchange reserves. A proportion of these have been invested, notably in the case of China and Singapore, in state-controlled sovereign wealth funds whose purpose is to seek profitable investments in other countries, including the West. Commodity-producing countries, notably the oil-rich states in the Middle East, have similarly invested part of their newly expanded income in such funds.

Sovereign wealth funds acquired powerful new leverage as a result of the credit crunch, commanding resources which the major Western financial institutions palpably lacked. The meltdown of some of Wall Street’s largest financial institutions in September 2008 underlined the shift in economic power from the West, with some of the fallen giants seeking support from sovereign wealth funds and the US government stepping in to save the mortgage titans Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae partly in order to reassure countries like China, which had invested huge sums of money in them: if they had withdrawn these, it would almost certainly have precipitated a collapse in the value of the dollar. The financial crisis has graphically illustrated the disparity between an East Asia cash-rich from decades of surpluses and a United States cash-poor following many years of deficits.

According to projections by Goldman Sachs, the three largest economies in the world by 2050 will be China, followed by a closely matched America and India some way behind, and then Brazil, Mexico, Russia and Indonesia. Only two European countries feature in the top ten, namely the UK and Germany in ninth and tenth place respectively. Of the present G7, only four appear in the top ten. In similar forecasts, PricewaterhouseCoopers suggest that the Brazilian economy could be larger than Japan’s, and that the Russian, Mexican and Indonesian economies could each be bigger than the German, French and UK economies by 2050. If these projections, or something similar, are borne out in practice, then during the next four decades the world will come to look like a very different place indeed.

Excerpted from “When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order” by Martin Jacques. Reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) November, 2009.


The Copenhagen opening ceremony on Monday as the climate change summit began

By Reuters

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – China led calls by developing nations for deeper emissions cuts from the United States, Japan and Europe at U.N. climate talks on Tuesday, as a study showed that this decade will be the warmest on record.

The first decade of this century was the hottest since records began, the World Meteorological Organisation said, underscoring the threat scientists say the planet faces from rising temperatures.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries are trying to seal the outlines of a climate pact to combat rising seas, desertification, floods and cyclones that could devastate economies and ruin the livelihoods of millions of people.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said the Dec 7-18 talks in Copenhagen were “off to a good start.” The EU said it was positive that no one had walked out of negotiation sessions.

But a rich-poor rift continued to cloud negotiations on finance and emissions cuts. Recession-hit rich countries have not yet made concrete offers to aid developing nations who also want the industrialised world to act faster to curb emissions.

China and many other developing nations urged the rich to make deeper cuts in emissions and Beijing scoffed at a fast-start fund of $10 billion (£6.1 billion) a year meant to help developing countries from 2010 that rich countries are expected to approve.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, criticised goals set by the United States, the European Union and Japan for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Su Wei, a senior Chinese climate official at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, said the targets broadly fell short of the emissions cuts recommended by a U.N. panel of scientists. The panel has said cuts of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 were needed to avoid the worst of global warming.

He said a U.S. offer, equal to 3 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, “cannot be regarded as remarkable or notable.” An EU cut of 20 percent was also not enough and Japan was setting impossible conditions on its offer of a 25 percent cut by 2020.

“LIFE AND DEATH”

“This $10 billion if divided by the world population, it is less than $2 per person,” he said, adding it was not even enough to buy a cup of coffee in Copenhagen or a coffin in poorer parts of the world.

“Climate change is a matter of life and death,” he said.

Brazil’s climate change ambassador said his country did not want to sign up for a long-term goal of halving global emissions by 2050 unless rich nations took on firm shorter-term targets — which the Danish hosts view as a core outcome for the talks.

Copenhagen was meant to seal a legally binding climate deal to broaden the fight against climate change by expanding or replacing the Kyoto Protocol from 2013.

While that now looks out of reach, host Denmark wants leaders to at least agree on a “politically binding” deal. The Danish government has said this would be 5 to 8 pages with annexes from all countries describing pledged actions.

Negotiators are also trying to whittle down almost 200 pages of draft text that is expected to form the basis of an eventual post-2012 climate treaty. While negotiators have made progress refining the text, it is still full of blanks and options.

African civil groups led a protest inside the main conference centre in Copenhagen, urging more aid to prepare for global warming. “Africans are suffering. We will not die in silence,” said Augustine Njamnshi of Christian Aid.

“PLEASING THE RICH”

A draft 9-page Danish text with annexes seen by Reuters last week drew criticism by environmental activists, who said it undermined the negotiations.

“Focus on the Danish text right now is a distraction from the negotiations,” said Kim Carstensen, head of conservation group WWF’s global climate initiative, adding the text did not lay out what would happen to the Kyoto Protocol.

He called the Danish text a weak attempt to accommodate the United States. De Boer described the text as an informal paper for the purposes of consultation and not an official part of the negotiations.

Much is riding on what U.S. President Barack Obama can bring to the table in Copenhagen when he joins more than 100 other world leaders during a high-level summit on Dec 17-18.

Washington’s provisional offer is to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, or 3 percent below the U.N.’s 1990 baseline.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled on Monday that greenhouse gases endanger human health, allowing it to regulate them without legislation from the Senate, where a bill to cut U.S. emissions by 2020 is stalled.

Delegates cautiously welcomed the step as a boost for Obama.

(Additional reporting by Gerard Wynn, Alister Doyle, Richard Cowan and John Acher in Copenhagen; Writing by David Fogarty; Editing by Noah Barkin)


Honduras former president Manuel Zelaya with members of Carter Center in the Brazil´s embassy, in Tegucigalpa

BY ANDRES OPPENHEIMER
aoppenheimer@MiamiHerald.com

Brazil, the United States and the Organization of American States deserve a gold medal each for their awful handling of Sunday’s presidential elections in Honduras.

Let’s examine how the main international players behaved in the crisis triggered by the June 28 civilian coup against deposed President Manuel Zelaya, which was the first break of the rule of law in Latin America in nearly two decades.

• The gold medal for political hypocrisy should go to Brazil. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is leading the group of nations that is not recognizing the results of the Honduran elections won by leftist-turned-conservative businessman Porfirio Lobo. Lula da Silva says, rightly, that recognizing Lobo’s election would set a bad precedent for Latin America because it would legitimize an election convened by a non-democratic government.

The trouble with that argument is that most of today’s democracies in Latin America were born out of elections called by coup-originated governments, starting with the 1989 victory of late Chilean President Patricio Aylwin in national elections organized by Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Also, the recent Honduran elections were not a concoction of outgoing President Roberto Micheletti’s de facto regime, but had been scheduled before the coup.

But what makes the Brazilian position a showcase of political hypocrisy is that, only days before asking the world not to recognize Lobo’s election in Honduras, Lula da Silva had given a red carpet welcome in the Brazilian capital to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, giving him much-needed international recognition.

In addition to defying United Nations warnings about its nuclear program and repeatedly stating that he wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, Ahmadinejad has just proclaimed himself the winner of highly dubious elections. Worse, Ahmadinejad’s regime has condemned eight opposition protesters to death — something the outgoing de facto Honduran government has not even come close to doing.

Besides, how can Lula da Silva call for maintaining international sanctions against Honduras while at the same time urging the world to lift remaining sanctions against Cuba?

Brazil apparently wants to maintain Honduras’ suspension from the OAS while it recently championed the vote that lifted Cuba’s nearly five-decade suspension from the OAS. It’s a curious stand, considering that the Cuban regime has not allowed a free election nor opposition parties in five decades, something that cannot be said about Honduras’ de facto government.

Granted, Brazil may be forced to be louder than others in defense of Zelaya’s position because the ousted Honduran president is holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. But Brazil’s handling of the Honduran crisis has been a joke.

• The gold medal for flip-flopping — and keeping all of us scratching our heads — should go to the United States.

At first, the Obama administration joined Brazil and other Latin American countries in denouncing the coup and cuting off development and anti-drug aid to the Micheletti regime. Then, the U.S. State Department said it would recognize the results of Sunday’s elections, arguing that it would help re-establish full democratic rule in the country.

More recently, it backtracked a little bit, suggesting that Honduras needs to create a government of national unity before the transfer of power to get Washington to lift its sanctions. If you are confused, don’t worry — so am I.

To be sure, the Honduran crisis took place while the job of head of Latin American affairs at the State Department was vacant because Republicans had delayed the nomination of Arturo Valenzuela until his confirmation last month. Still, the U.S. position has at best been confusing.

• The Organization of American States deserves a gold medal for one-sidedness. Instead of condemning the coup and simultaneously casting some criticism at Zelaya for disobeying his country’s Supreme Court rulings, the OAS in the early days of the crisis campaigned almost exclusively to support Zelaya. That made it more difficult for the 34-country group to intervene as an honest broker in the ensuing crisis.

What should all international players have done? Contrary to what right-wingers in Congress say, there should be some sanctions against Honduras for what undoubtedly was a break of the rule of law. No coup should go unpunished.

But there should be a distinction between political sanctions and economic sanctions. Holding Honduras’ president-elect accountable for a coup he did not take part in is unfair.

Furthermore, it makes no sense to call for imposing economic sanctions on Honduras, while demanding lifting them from Cuba.

Countdown to Copenhagen, Parque do Ibirapuera, São Paulo, Brazil

By TOM ZELLER Jr. – The New York Times

With the scientific consensus more or less settled that human activity — the burning of fossil fuels, torching of forests, and so forth — is contributing to a warmer and less hospitable planet, one might reasonably ask, why is it so hard to agree on a plan to curb those activities?

The answer lies with the many fault lines that cut through the debate over climate change. Those deep divisions will be on display beginning this week as representatives of 192 nations gather in Copenhagen for a United Nations conference on the issue.

Organizers had hoped to emerge with an international compact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help countries most threatened by rising sea waters and temperatures. But the divisions between nations are such that world leaders agreed last month to put off resolving the most contentious issues until next year. They will try instead to reach a nonbinding interim agreement in Copenhagen, then work toward a binding treaty in 2010.

Just what will happen, of course, remains to be seen. Here’s a primer on some of the major themes and fissures:

RICH NATIONS VS. POOR NATIONS

Who should pay whom for what — and how much?

The Bolivias and Chads and Mauritanias of the world argue that they are more vulnerable to changes in temperature, and have little or no resources to adapt to changes in the growing seasons or increased rainfall or — worst case — to relocate large numbers of people.

They want the rich world to commit to far deeper emissions cuts than they already have, and to provide them with cash and technology so they can prepare for the worst and develop a clean energy infrastructure for themselves.

The rich world, meanwhile, is busy trying to figure out just how to calculate the cost of all this (estimates run into the trillions of dollars), and how to divvy up the bill.

DEVELOPED VS. DEVELOPING ECONOMIES

This is where postindustrial economies like the United States and Europe, which became prosperous by burning carbon-dioxide-spewing fossil fuels, face off against industrializing economies like China, Brazil and India, which resent pressure to decarbonize their energy systems now that they are growing.

The standoff between China and the United States underscores the issues. The global trade rivals were reluctant to commit to emissions targets until each had an idea of what the other planned. The two countries together are responsible for 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But all players have been eyeing each other warily.

In recent weeks, bidding has begun, with Brazil, then the United States, followed by China and, last week, India, offering up individual emissions goals. But they have used different baselines against which to measure their reductions, making it difficult to determine whether there is parity.

ISLAND AND COASTAL NATIONS VS. THE CLOCK

In mid-October, ministers of the government of the Maldives, a low-lying island nation in the Indian Ocean, donned scuba gear and held a 30-minute cabinet meeting underwater off the coast of the capital, Malé.

The stunt was designed to highlight the nation’s plight — and that of three-dozen or so other small island and coastal countries — should global warming raise sea levels in the coming decades. Even a modest increase could leave a number of low-lying nations uninhabitable.

As a bloc, these countries have been lobbying for an international agreement to keep average temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius — or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. They also want global emissions scaled back by as much as 85 percent by midcentury.

The bloc, which includes a wide range of economies, from relatively well-to-do Singapore to strugglers like Haiti, wins points for being at the front lines of a planetary problem, but its political clout at the negotiating table is uncertain.

EUROPE VS. EUROPE

Even though the European Union has been at the vanguard of renewable energy development and emissions reduction through its carbon trading scheme, it is struggling internally over each nation’s carbon quotas, assistance to developing countries and fidelity to the emissions reductions agreed to in 1997 under the Kyoto Protocol.

While Europe as a whole is on track to meet its goal of an 8 percent reduction over 1990 emissions levels by 2012, not every country has pulled its weight. Nations unlikely to meet their individual Kyoto targets include Italy, Spain and, yes, Denmark, host of the Copenhagen talks.

Poland and Estonia, meanwhile, have been bickering with the European Commission over the amount of carbon dioxide the two countries should be allowed to emit. Both rely heavily on coal for electricity.

Oil-producing nations are worried about the impact of a global climate deal, and they have increasingly argued that any agreement that would reduce reliance on fossil fuels should include compensation for their lost revenues.

Saudi Arabia has spearheaded this argument, and while environmental groups and other stakeholders have dismissed the notion as a stunt, oil producers are not without the ability to muddle negotiations if push comes to shove.

Meanwhile, developers of wind, solar and other renewable technologies anticipate a windfall if the community of nations — including mega-polluters like the United States — agree to a binding climate treaty. So, too, do global banks, which would presumably do handsomely through an expanded carbon trading market.

Lobbyists from all sides will be wining and dining delegates over the next two weeks.

CARBON TAXERS VS. CARBON TRADERS

Many experts argue that the only way to tackle climate change is to put a price on carbon. Some say the best way to do that is to create a cap-and-trade system, in which industries are issued permits to emit carbon dioxide up to a certain level, or cap. Companies that emit below the cap can then sell their permits on a carbon market, where companies exceeding the cap will, presumably, buy them so they can continue to pollute. The total number of permits would not exceed an overall emissions target.

Europe has had an emissions trading scheme since 2005. Some critics argue, however, that such systems are unnecessarily complicated and prone to manipulation. A simpler solution would be a tax on carbon, they say.

But with a cap-and-trade scheme forming the bedrock of negotiations in Copenhagen, and among legislators in Congress seeking to pass national climate legislation, the carbon-tax camp has been increasingly marginalized.

EMERGENCY VS. WE’LL FIGURE IT OUT

The idea that human beings are nudging the planet’s thermostat upward is widely accepted among climatologists. But just how rapidly things are changing, to what extent and where — and at what threshold, if any, should we abandon all hope — are far less settled questions.

In 2008, the NASA scientist and global warming guru James Hansen identified 350 parts per million as the upper limit for safe atmospheric carbon concentration. Current levels are approaching 390 parts per million.

Others argue that there is no reason for panic — nor for what they say is an economy-crushing global climate treaty. They are putting their faith in human ingenuity, arguing that planetary-scale engineering projects like blasting seawater into the atmosphere to increase the heat reflectivity of certain clouds (yes, that’s a real idea), will eventually solve the problem.

By Andrew Downie, from Time.com