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Brazil Not Optimisitc About Trade Talks with US

Brazil is not holding out much hope for major breakthroughs in proposed trade talks between the United States, and the four members of the South American trade bloc known as Mercosur, which includes Brazil. But Brazil is making a major push to promote its exports.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Lafer says he expects modest results from upcoming talks between Mercosur and the United States, the so-called "Four-Plus-One" trade group.

Mr. Lafer told reporters Friday he does not believe the discussions will lead Washington to drop its anti-dumping legislation or to lift its barriers against agricultural imports. For this to happen, he says, negotiations have to take place on a multilateral basis under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.

But Mr. Lafer said his country and the other three Mercosur partners will raise these issues at the Four-Plus-One talks, which are expected to get underway early next month. He said the talks will serve as a "platform" for the Mercosur nations to present their views.

Earlier this week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick invited the Mercosur countries - Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay - to join the United States to revive the Four-Plus-One group. The group was active during the first Bush Administration in pushing for expanded trade.

Mr. Zoellick's invitation came on the same day the International Monetary Fund agreed to a bailout of Argentina's floundering economy, prompting speculation that reviving the Four-Plus-One group was tied to the approval of the loan package. But Brazil was quick to reject any such linkage. A presidential spokesman said this week Mercosur first made the overture to Washington in June, after deciding to do so at its summit conference in the Paraguayan capital.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has taken steps to increase Brazilian exports. Among other things, his government plans to lift taxes on the production of raw materials used in making goods for export.

In a speech Thursday, Mr. Cardoso said Brazil must either export or die. He said it's a new kind of independence, either export or die. Mr. Cardoso went on to describe a world in which the strong nations defend their interests, and countries like Brazil must do more to catch up.

To loud applause from business executives and government officials, Mr. Cardoso said there is no danger for Brazil to sit down at the negotiating table, as long as it is competitive and he vowed his government will negotiate trade deals with firmness.

Brazil has had a long running trade dispute with the United States over U.S. trade barriers against Brazilian agricultural products and steel.