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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 11:32 GMT
Brazil could block FTAA

The government in Brazil has reiterated its opposition to an early start of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The United States has made it clear that it would like the thirty-four nation common market to be launched in 2003, instead of the target agreed earlier of 2005.

But Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Lafer, said his country was prepared to block the early start of the free trade area.

Mr Lafer said any changes to the timetable must be agreed by consensus.

Correspondents say Brazil, as the biggest economy in South America, has been cautious about opening its markets further and wants trade concessions from the US in exchange for supporting the FTAA. The issue is expected to be discussed when the Brazilian president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, meets President Bush next week in Washington.

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