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Friday, November 21, 2003

A Condensed Transcript Of The Miami FTAA Talks

I imagine that this was, more or less, the gist of the trade talks:

(Outside the negotiation room people chant: "We don't want free trade! We don't want free trade!" Inside, the delegates from Brazil and the US are sitting stiffly in front of each other, while the rest of the delegates look at them.)

US: Those people outside are being silly. We want free trade.
Brazil: We certainly do. Trade is part of the way to prosperity.
US: The thing is, you've got to start pushing harder to protect Intellectual Property rights, and give our companies more chances to bid for state contracts.
Brazil: No problem. After you stop subsidizing your farmers.
US: Sorry, can't. Politics.
Brazil: Ditto.

(Both delegates relax. A companionable silence sets for a while between them.)

US: We knew that this would happen, didn't we?
Brazil: Yeah. It could have been worse.
US: I know. Thanks for not bailing out like last time.
Brazil: Don't mention it. We can't keep walking out of these things. Brazil needs more trade, you know? Anyway, do we sign the dummy accord now or wait until Friday?
US: Let's do that now and go back to our homes. See you around in Geneva?
Brazil: Most likely. Good luck with the Chinese and the Europeans, though. They are not a happy bunch.
US: I know, I know. But what can I do? It's (all delegates together, with a semi-amused, semi-exasperated rolling of their eyes) Politics, we know!

If you don't buy this version of the talks, just meditate on the following quote from Robert Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative: "Economies are different in the early 2000s than they were in the 1990s. We each have our own politics to deal with."

Understatement, so it seems, is still the heart of diplomacy.

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