Bush, Brazil's Silva talk ethanol, trade at Camp David

Sunday, April 1, 2007
President Bush welcomed Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Saturday as they were saluted by a Marine honor guard at Camp David, Md. (CHARLES DHARAPAK ~ Associated Press)

CAMP DAVID, Md. -- President Bush and Brazil's leader plotted cooperation on freer global trade and increased use of alternative fuels in talks that brought the allies together for the second time in less than a month.

Bush and first lady Laura Bush greeted President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the first Latin American head of state Bush has hosted at his presidential retreat.

"Beautiful day," Bush said after Silva emerged from a helicopter and they walked through a column of Marines and sailors, then past a color guard displaying flags of both nations.

Bush got behind the wheel of a golf cart, with "Golf Cart One" on its hood, and he and Silva drove off into the woods for their meeting.

Like their meeting earlier this month in Sao Paulo, Brazil, biofuels and world trade talks dominated the session.

Bush called their joint desire to see a global free trade deal "the most compelling part of the opportunity to work together."

"It is in our interest to work together to make sure that we have a deal that treats Brazil fairly, the United States fairly, as well as other nations fairly," the president said during a joint news conference in a small building on the wooded mountain property. "I strongly believe that the best way to alleviate world poverty is through trade."

The Doha Round of world trade talks, named for the city in Qatar where they were launched in 2001, stalled last year. Developing countries were upset because rich nations would not make significant cuts in farm subsidies and demanded greater access to markets in the developing world.

No major breakthrough had been expected at Camp David, and none seemed forthcoming.

Bush said it will take more than the will of just the United States and Brazil to break the logjam.

"What we won't do is accept a unilateral deal," Bush said.

And Silva, while praising their two hours of talks as "the meeting that was the most productive one" of all he has had with Washington, still said he was going home with little to brag about.

"If someone asks me, `What are you taking back to Brazil,' I would say nothing. I'm not taking anything back to Brazil," he said.

Still, the point had been for the two leaders to coordinate on what they could do to advance the larger talks. Silva said he was encouraged and Bush said the United States is committed to getting it done.

The two leaders' talks on ethanol followed up a memorandum of understanding to promote international ethanol that the two nations signed when Bush visited Brazil on March 9.

Silva's opening statement, which lasted over 20 minutes compared with about four from Bush, was dominated by talk of biofuels. At one point, he pleaded with the small audience of press to "please pay attention" while he rattled off energy statistics.

Dan Fisk, the National Security Council's senior director of Western Hemisphere affairs, had said Friday the two hoped to announce a handful of Caribbean and Central American nations that will be the beneficiaries of pilot programs for biofuels development. There was no announcement.

Before his arrival, Silva reiterated Brazil's position that the alternative fuel will not gain traction worldwide unless the United States drops a 53-cent-per-gallon tariff on Brazilian ethanol.

The promotion of ethanol could eventually help wean the U.S. off its need for foreign oil, officials say, lessening energy dependence on volatile Middle Eastern nations and Venezuela -- whose President Hugo Chavez has long been a political thorn in the Bush administration's side.

But teaming up with Brazil on the promotion of ethanol hasn't pleased everyone in the United States, either. Corn farmers in the United States don't like the idea of the government helping Brazil's industry, which they see as a competitor. Lawmakers from corn-growing states have registered their complaints with Bush.

Silva was in the United States for barely more than a day, planning to fly back to Brazil after a tour and dinner that followed the joint appearance before reporters.

In Brazil, an air traffic controllers' strike Friday night suspended takeoffs at all 67 commercial airports. The workers ended their protest Saturday after the government agreed to their demands, including a bonus and review of a promotions system. Silva made the decision to negotiate with the controllers rather than take legal action, his press spokesman said.

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