Latin America seeks top role in global finance structure

December 17th, 2008 - 5:51 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaCosta do Sauipe (Brazil), Dec 17 (DPA) Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made it clear Tuesday that Latin America will not settle for a supporting role in the structure that is set to emerge from the current global financial crisis.”We want to be protagonists, not just spectators in the theatres where the prospects for welfare and prosperity for our peoples are decided,” Lula stressed.

The leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean gathered at the northeastern Brazilian resort of Costa do Sauipe for the summits of four regional blocs - Mercosur, Unasur, Rio Group and the Conference of Latin American and Caribbean countries - between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Lula, the leader of the largest economy in the region and the 10th-largest in the world - stressed that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean should stand together to become “part of the solution” for the global crisis.

He noted that the region “will not attend passively” the debates on the global crisis, but will instead seek to make its voice heard in the definition of a new international financial structure.

“We will play an important role in the construction of a new political and economic architecture that is international, multipolar and multilateral,” he said.

The financial crisis is set to be - along with the food crisis and climate change - among the central topics in the summits in Costa de Sauipe, near the Brazilian city of Salvador de Bahia.

Lula stressed that the diversification of trade is crucial to reduce South America’s dependency.

“The development of south-south trade is key to our development,” he noted.

Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon, leader of the region’s second-largest economy and the 14th-largest in the world, advocated the creation of a safer environment for investment in Latin America, as a way to fight the current global financial crisis.

The Mexican president spoke in favour of adopting counter-cyclical fiscal policies and heavy investment in the integration of countries in the region in the fields of energy, economics, trade and politics, among others.

“Latin America in general and particularly Mercosur need to gain a much greater space as a destination for investment. We have to be able to articulate a strategy that presents Latin America as a favourable place to invest,” Calderon said.

“Investment will be ever more scarce and it will be disputed by different countries and regions,” he predicted.

He warned his peers of protectionism and instead advocated an elimination of commercial barriers and an effort to boost commercial exchanges.

“The answer is to open (borders) and to achieve an even greater capacity for economic and commercial integration at the regional level,” Calderon said.

Protectionism, he said, “would mean strangling a bit more” Latin America’s economic potential.

“We are on the verge of a generalised recession, and one of the angles that we have to stimulate precisely in developing countries with low capitalisation levels and high levels of poverty is the capacity to generate growth, associated to the amount of investment that we can generate, both public and private,” Calderon noted.

Earlier, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said that the summit was a message for US president-elect Barack Obama that the region wants to talk “with its own voice”.

“Now that a new president is coming in the US, it is very opportune that we should meet, without protectorates, without hegemonies. That is enough of empire,” Chavez said.

“The US used to do in Latin America as they pleased,” he added.

Cuba’s President Raul Castro was also attending the summits in Brazil, in the communist country’s first top-level presence at an international gathering since his predecessor and brother Fidel Castro attended a Mercosur summit in Argentina in mid-July 2006, just before he stepped down from the Cuban leadership.

“Cuba returns where it should always have been. We are forming a team, a good team,” Chavez said.

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