Archive for Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bush claims trade progress with Uruguay

March 11, 2007

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— President Bush claimed progress on trade with Uruguay's president Saturday, courting another leftist leader on his Latin American tour. "We care about the human condition," Bush said, trying to co-opt the populism of one influential leftist rival he won't meet: Venezuela's firebrand, Hugo Chavez.

In a part of the world where the U.S. invasion of Iraq is particularly unpopular, Bush is not talking much about the global war on terror. And while he won't mention Chavez by name, his soft-sell pitch clearly is intended to counter the Venezuelan leader's rising stature and rants that blame Latin America's poverty on U.S.-style capitalism.

"I would call our diplomacy quiet and effective diplomacy - diplomacy all aimed at helping people, aimed at elevating the human condition, aimed at expressing the great compassion of the American people," Bush said at a joint news conference with Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez. As he has on other stops, he mentioned increases in U.S. aid programs during his presidency.

The two met at the Uruguayan presidential retreat in Anchorena Park, a riverside ranch and national park about 120 miles west of here. Bush traveled by helicopter.

The Bush administration is trying to expand trade with Uruguay. But the efforts are complicated by the country's membership in a rival South American trading bloc.

Uruguay, a tiny coastal nation overshadowed by neighboring Brazil and Argentina, wants to sell more beef and textiles to the United States, its biggest trading partner.

The two discussed U.S. restrictions on Uruguayan imports. Vazquez also said he wanted to expand scientific, technical and cultural exchanges - all to establish "a better standard of living for our people."

Both agreed to talk more.

Said Vazquez, "We have created a plan starting with this meeting" in which trade and agriculture experts from both countries will meet to iron out differences.

Bush said the United States is "fully prepared to reduce agricultural subsidies" but first wants to make sure "there is market access for our products."

Vazquez also pressed for a more liberal immigration policy in the United States. Bush said he would work for a "compassionate and rational immigration law" that recognizes the United States cannot grant automatic citizenship to undocumented immigrants or "kick people out."

Bush reported talking with the president about the potential of ethanol as an alternate fuel. He praised Vazquez's efforts to improve his country's economy, which is growing at an estimated rate of 7 percent.

The day before, Bush struck a deal on ethanol promotion with Brazil's left-wing leader, Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva.

Bush is seeking to shore up relations with democratically elected leaders of both the left and the right in Latin America. He took in a traditional barbecue known as an asado with Vazquez. The leaders also went for about a 25-minute boat ride on the River Plate. Earlier, Bush extended to Silva a rare invitation to visit the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.

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