World

Bush Visits Brazil Amid Skepticism About Trade

by Jesus Rios

But biofuel agreement may elicit support if terms are viewed as fair

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- George W. Bush arrives in Brazil today on the first stop of a five-country Latin American tour. Bush returns to the region at a time when the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) project -- the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy strategy toward the western hemisphere since 1994 -- has all but vanished amid ideological opposition, concerns about economic imbalances between participating countries, and claims that the United States' protection of its agricultural sector would leave Latin American economies with little room to benefit from such a trade deal.

According to Gallup World Poll data, Brazilians are more skeptical than any other in region about the FTAA initiative. Of the 45% of Brazilians who have heard of it, only 1% believe it would be favorable for their country, while 47% believe it would be unfavorable, and 35% feel it would have little effect.

But the negative sentiment doesn't have to be an insurmountable obstacle. Other findings suggest Brazilians' skepticism toward FTAA is not necessarily ideologically motivated. Rather, they take pride in the competitiveness of their country's products -- and may be likely to support a U.S.-inclusive trade agreement, as long as they feel it allows their country to compete on favorable terms.

  • Sixty-one percent of all Brazilians believe products produced in Brazil are generally of better quality than those produced elsewhere.
  • Eighty-one percent of Brazilians who say they are familiar with the FTAA believe it could work if Brazil could choose which products are included in the agreement.

Biofuel technology is arguably the product that best represents the sentiments reflected in these poll results. Brazil is the world's leader in the production of sugar-cane ethanol and has managed to become energy self-sufficient by gradually making its automotive industry biofuel-ready. In the context of the visit, President Bush and Brazilian president Lula da Silva are expected to sign an ambitious cooperative agreement for the production, industrialization, and technology transfer of ethanol, which would also involve and benefit other Latin American nations.

The practical benefits derived from the biofuel agreement may offer hope for a new model of trade relations between the United States and Latin America that populations on both sides are likely to embrace -- a true partnership characterized less by ideological rhetoric than by concerns about the long-term economic success and security of both regions.

Survey Methods

These results are based on face-to-face interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,029 Brazilians, aged 15 and older, conducted Dec. 4-19, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the approximate error attributable to sampling, weighting, and other random effects is ┬▒3 percentage points for a percentage at 50%. For results based on the sub-sample of Brazilians who say they are familiar with the FTAA, one can say with 95% confidence that the approximate error attributable to sampling, weighting, and other random effects is ┬▒5 percentage points for a percentage at 50%. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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