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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
US praise for Brazil's reforms

By Tom Gibb
BBC Brazil correspondent

US Treasury secretary John Snow
This is Mr Snow's first foreign trip as Treasury Secretary
US Treasury Secretary John Snow has heaped praise on the economic policies of Brazil's new left-wing president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, during a two-day visit to the country.

Before meeting Brazil's president, he said that the country would not face problems because of its stance against the war in Iraq.

John Snow is on a three-country Latin American tour and now goes to Ecuador and Colombia.

Six months ago the prospect of a former left-wing union boss winning the presidency of South America's largest country sent international investors scurrying and set off alarm bells in Washington.

But Lula, as Brazil's new president is known, has so far pursued the kinds of economic policies the United States and the IMF are pushing for in Latin America.

He has set budget targets more austere than those of the IMF and he is making tough market reforms, including cuts in civil service pensions.

Farming subsidies

These are good economic policies in the judgement of the visiting US Treasury Secretary whose own government is, by contrast, running a growing budget deficit.

Mr Snow also made it clear that US-Brazilian relations would not be hurt by Lula's opposition to the war in Iraq.

He said President Bush was anxious to push forward free trade talks and the United States would be prepared to lift tariffs on some Brazilian agricultural goods.

However, this is unlikely to impress the Brazilians.

They want the US to stop subsidising its farmers, something which President Bush has, so far, not offered.

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