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Last Updated: Monday, 14 July, 2003, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Lula attacks US trade stance
Internet users emailed questions to Lula from around the world
The president of Brazil has spoken out against any notion of the United States being the dominant force in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and called for fairer negotiations.

In an exclusive interview with BBC News Interactive's Talking Point, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, said the FTAA "was not owned by the United States" and that all countries wanting to join should have an equal voice.

He said that if this were not possible, then the matter would be taken to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Lula, who is in the UK to take part in a progressive governance conference, also reiterated calls for South American countries to join forces to create a stronger negotiating power in trade talks with the US and Europe.

Taking questions from internet users from around the world, Lula said Latin American countries were not obliged to follow an identical political agenda to the US.

"We want a united South America because we have common interests, because we share borders with every country except Ecuador and Chile and because we have political, economical and social interests in South America," he said.

Drop tariffs

Lula said Brazil also needed to look for other partners that were not directly linked with the first world, like South Africa, China, India or Russia.

Negotiations to set up the FTAA - which includes all countries in the Americas, expect Cuba - are expected to last until 2005.

If each South American country, or each African country looks for solutions to their problems on their own they will not succeed
President Lula
Brazil is the FTAA's co-president and says it is willing to resolve issues at the WTO. Lula criticised the US approach to the agreement.

"The US wants all the sensitive issues to be debated outside FTAA, and at the same time they want to preserve their agriculture. But, for example, they want the poor countries to negotiate their governmental imports."

He said the US was always going to be in a strong position in negotiations.

"If there are no criteria to protect the weaker, the hegemony of the stronger country will prevail and we do not want that," he said.

"We want negotiations which effectively take place on a level playing field."

He called on richer countries to drop the tariffs that they impose on commerce or agricultural products coming from third world countries, especially from South America and Africa.

Rio prayers

As president of Brazil, he said it was his job to convince the US and major European countries to take responsibility for helping poorer nations develop their social policies.

"If you help Africa to develop or if you help South America to develop, you will actually be enabling an external trade policy in those developing countries where you can sell your own products," he said.

Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro could be in line to host the 2012 Olympics
"And if you want to combat drugs trafficking, organised crime and terrorism, the best way to do that is by carrying out social policies in the poorer parts of the globe."

Answering other questions, Lula defended his support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and said Brazil would not rush into making a decision on legalising GM soya beans.

On a lighter theme, Lula lit up at the prospect of Rio de Janeiro hosting the Olympics in 2012.

"First of all I am going to pray that Rio becomes the Olympic City in 2012," he said.

"I think the people of Rio are an extraordinarily marvellous people. I think the city with all the natural beauty given to it by God deserves to host the Olympics and obviously will we do everything to ensure the games are carried out in total security."

President Lula of Brazil
The Americans do not have to fear a left wing government in Brazil. The Americans have to fear their own government

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