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Thursday, 19 April, 2001, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Analysis: Bush's good neighbour policy
US President George W Bush sits with Argentinian President Fernando de la Rua
George W shares a moment with his Argentinian counterpart
By the BBC's Rob Watson in Quebec City

This is the third Summit of the Americas since former President Clinton initiated the idea of such summits beginning in Miami in 1994, bringing together presidents and prime ministers of 34 countries from Canada to Chile.

But, in an arena where personality can be as important as substance, all eyes will be on the performance and diplomacy of President Bush, attending his first international summit since entering the White House.

It is no accident that this second foreign trip by the President will be, like his first to Mexico, a trip to another neighbour, Canada.

That fits in nicely with his campaign pledge to be a good neighbour and to place more emphasis on relations with America's backyard than his predecessor Bill Clinton.

Free trade

President Bush has described himself as an unashamed free trader.

US President George W Bush
All eyes will be on George W Bush
He has made no secret that he would like to see negotiations for an FTAA completed long before the 2005 deadline. But that will not be easy.

Some countries attending the summit, Brazil in particular, fear liberalising their economies could lead to a flood of US imports and to unemployment at home.

They also accuse the US of being unwilling to open up some of its key markets, such as agriculture, to foreign competition.

Congressional obstacles

President Bush's desire for getting an FTAA sooner rather than later is also hampered by his lack of what is known as "fast-track" authority, that is permission from the US Congress to negotiate trade deals without congressional approval.

Many other governments in the region see little reason to enter into complex bargaining with administration officials.

They fear any deals struck could then unravel in the notoriously quarrelsome Congress.

Some believe though that President Bush may receive support for a quicker pace from the business community in America.

Analysts say American business has until now somewhat ignored Latin America, but it may be more interested now in looking for opportunities there given the slowdown in the domestic economy.

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