Bush Takes Trade Plans to Latin Nations


President Bush embarked Sunday night on a weeklong visit to South America, seeking to promote the economic restructuring now under way throughout the continent by building support for his free-trade proposals.

Aides to the President, who was scheduled to arrive here early today, said he was not bringing much in the way of new proposals but that he will focus on the trade-building aspects of his Enterprise for the Americas initiative and on the strengthening of democracy, lately on the rise in the part of the world long plagued by military dictatorships.

Besides Brazil, he will visit Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela.

Bush’s Enterprise for the Americas initiative, unveiled last June as a plan for a “new economic partnership” with Latin America, would create a hemisphere-wide free-trade zone stretching from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Argentina and Chile.


It includes a relatively modest $100-million-a-year U.S. grant in response to “market-oriented investment reforms” intended to boost private enterprise in Latin American economies.

The presidential visit to Brazil, the first by an American president in eight years, comes at a time of a sharp turnaround in South America’s political and economic environment.

With the exception of Cuba and Haiti, U.S. officials have pointed out--overlooking several quasi-democratic regimes--each of the governments in the hemisphere holds office as the result of free elections. And on the economic front, fiercely protective trading practices are giving way to a concerted effort to open up borders with the hope of increasing markets.

By 1994, for example, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay hope to have created a common market patterned after the economic and trade association of Western Europe.


In addition, the United States in the past several months has signed bilateral trade agreements with Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Honduras.

The warmer trend in the U.S. relations with its southern neighbors was noted by President Fernando Collor de Mello of Brazil, who took office last March.

Writing in Gazeta Mercantil, a national financial newspaper, the 40-year-old Brazilian leader said: “Over the last few months . . . Brazilian-United States relations have no longer been marked by the contentious trade issues that had achieved such notoriety in recent years.

“Brazil has completed its process of political transition to democracy. We are moving toward the consolidation of a solid and modern market economy, capable of ensuring that Brazilians are rescued from the extreme poverty in which a majority still live,” he wrote.


As much as U.S. officials are seeking to promote moves toward democracy, Brazilian and other officials are taking every opportunity to call attention to the fact that the rightist military regimes of the past have been turned out, leftists are no longer threatening takeovers and trade, rather than direct aid, is what is needed to pull the continent’s nearly 400 million citizens out of the dire poverty in which so many of them live.

“The strategy of anti-communism and ‘assistancialism’ (giving of assistance) is no longer a suitable approach to Latin America,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Francisco Rezek said.

“The leaders of this hemisphere recognize that in the global economy in which we live and operate, what is crucial to regimes is a chance to attract foreign investment, to expand trade, reduce trading barriers, gain access to technology and to international financial institutions, (and) reduce debt burdens,” a senior Bush Administration official said, speaking with reporters in Washington on Friday.