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G8: Despite Differences, Mexico Comfortable as G5 Emerging Power

Diego Cevallos

MEXICO CITY, Jun 5 2007 (IPS) - The Mexican government says it feels comfortable forming part of the five countries identified by the world’s richest nations as the “emerging powers.” However, it has marked differences and even conflicts with China and Brazil, two other members of the so-called Group of Five (G5)

Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his G5 counterparts from Brazil, China, India and South Africa have been invited to participate in the summit of Group of Eight (G8) most developed nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – which opens Wednesday in the German seaside resort of Heiligendamm.

Calderón’s agenda for the meeting includes general proposals for fighting poverty and pollution, supporting democracy, and kickstarting the Doha Round of multilateral trade talks.

But his main aim will be to strengthen ties with rich countries other than the United States, in order to draw investment, generate trade opportunities, and try to ease the blows to trade inflicted on his country in the global markets by China and Brazil, Diego Ventura, professor of international affairs at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told IPS.

However, the analyst said that the presence of Mexico and the other “emerging powers” will have little impact in the G8 summit given the divergent points of view on climate change expected to be voiced by the United States and Europe and Russia’s anger over U.S. plans to build a missile defence system in eastern Europe and its threats to point nuclear missiles at European cities.

Prior to the meeting, Mexico and Brazil had already expressed differences with respect to U.S. President George W. Bush’s proposal for fighting global warming beyond 2012. He said he wanted the world’s top 15 emitters to meet later this year and agree on new measures to curb emissions by the end of 2008.

Mexican Environment Secretary Rafael Elvira welcomed the initiative, and said his government would support it.

But Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva argued that instead of coming up with new proposals, the United States should ratify and live up to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which already sets emissions reduction targets for industrialised nations.

Brazil and Mexico have long been involved in a simmering dispute over political and diplomatic leadership in Latin America, reflected, for example, in their each lobbying for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, said professor of international relations Rafael Fernández de Castro at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico.

Another question is the dispute over markets. Although Mexico signed a free trade agreement with the European Union in 2000, Brazil, which has spent a decade unsuccessfully negotiating a free trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur trade bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela), has nevertheless become one of Europe’s biggest trade partners in Latin America.

“Brazil has projected its economic and demographic power abroad, while Mexico has not had the projection it deserves,” Nicolás Pascual de la Parte, the personal representative of Javier Solana, High Representative for the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, told the Mexican newspaper Reforma.

Both Brazil and Mexico “defend their own interests,” admitted Lula on a visit to Mexico in 2003.

However, a Mexican Foreign Ministry official told IPS that the “normal” differences with the G5 members do not worry the Calderón administration. “We feel identified with that group,” he said on condition that his name not be mentioned, because he is not an official spokesperson.

The situation is even more tense between Mexico and another G5 member, China.

China surpassed Mexico in 2003 to become the United States’ second most important supplier (behind Canada), a position Mexico had won partly thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in effect since 1994 between Canada, Mexico and the United States.

In addition, nationally produced goods have been unable to compete with the flood of low-cost Chinese products, including both legal imports and contraband goods, over the past few years. This has led to the loss of thousands of jobs in Mexico and has drawn continuous complaints from the business community.

And while other Latin American countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru have benefited from growing volumes of sales of commodities to China, whose enormous market is avid for minerals, oil and food products, Mexico exports very little to China, while it competes with the Asian giant in areas like manufacturing, textiles and electronics.

In the G8 summit, Calderón will try to take steps to smooth things out with China and Brazil, but his main mission will be to seek investment and trade from rich nations, said Ventura.

The Mexican economy is one of the world’s 15 largest, in terms of gross domestic product. But like Brazil, it is far from achieving the level of development of the G8 members, according to United Nations Development Programme reports.

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