Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela cement trade alliance

Campaign News | Sunday, 30 April 2006

Tariff free treaty to beat the FTAA

HAVANA, 30 April - The leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia on Saturday signed a comprehensive integration agreement and trade accord cast as an alternative to US plans for a free-trade pact with the Latin American region.

Bolivian President Evo Morales signed on to a year-old political, social and economic integration agreement between Cuba and Venezuela dubbed the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, after South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

The accord gives Cuba preferential financing for Venezuelan oil and payment for services of more than 30,000 Cuban doctors and other professionals working in Venezuela. It has helped Cuba emerge from the economic crisis that followed the demise of the Soviet Union.

Morales, along with Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, signed a second agreement under which Cuba and Venezuela will eliminate all tariffs on Bolivian products.

Venezuela agreed to provide "all the energy resources Bolivia needs" as the second poorest country in the hemisphere nationalizes its natural gas reserves, and to help it develop a petrochemical industry.

Chavez and Morales contrasted the agreements with faltering US plans for a "Free Trade Area of the Americas," each charging the United States with trying to impose "imperialist domination" on the region.

"All Venezuela's and Cuba's experience over these years building integration, all the potential of our economies and people are at the Bolivian people's disposal," Chavez said during the signing ceremony.

Morales, who was elected in December, said upon arrival on Friday, "This meeting is a great meeting of three generations, of three revolutions."

"ALBA has worked very well for both Cuba and Venezuela, and Bolivia's joining can only improve it by adding another dimension," Cuban economist Omar Everleny said.

Nicaraguan Sandinista revolutionary Daniel Ortega, who held power in the 1980s and is a leading candidate in a presidential election in November, was at the podium for the signing as an observer.

Bolivia's gas desposits expand the economic potential of ALBA, which already includes Venzuela's oil reserves, he said.

Latin America is increasingly divided on how to form an economic bloc that can compete in the global economy.

Nine Latin American countries, including Mexico and Chile, have signed free-trade agreements with Washington. Others, such as all-important Brazil and Argentina, have refused, while also keeping their distance from ALBA.

Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela in trade talks

HAVANA, 29 April: Bolivian President Evo Morales joined Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in Havana on Saturday to endorse a socialist trade initiative aimed at providing an alternative to US-backed free trade efforts in Latin America.

Morales on Saturday planned to officially include his Andean nation in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas - a pact that Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez signed a year ago.

So far, only Venezuela and Cuba are signatories to the pact known by its Spanish acronym as ALBA, which also translates to mean "dawn." It also been referred to as the "people's trade agreement."

The pact calls for shared trade and cooperation agreements among Latin American nations in lieu of Washington's unsuccessful Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, which Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro argue is really a US attempt to annex the region.

Saturday's ceremony will mark a deepening political and economic alliance between Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia as the three countries work toward their own idea for regional integration without US influence.

Castro warmly greeted Morales on Friday afternoon, then both met Chavez in the evening.

The trade pact is named after the 19th century South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar, who led independence wars in the present day nations of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Bolivar died without realising his dream of creating a Latin American federation that would ensure its independence from the United States.

The agreement will allow Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela to trade some products with zero tariffs and strengthen already close ties among the three nations, whose leaders are known for their strong opposition to US policy.

"We don't want to be rich, but we do want to live well, with dignity, as brothers, so there is no misery, so there is no poverty, so people are not excluded - that is among our fundamental objectives," Chavez said of the trade pact in Caracas on Friday, before leaving for Havana.

Chavez and Morales have warned in recent days that their countries could withdraw from the Andean Community if fellow trade-bloc members Colombia, Peru and Ecuador go through with free-trade pacts with the United States.

Chavez said in his Caracas speech Friday that Venezuela and Cuba would happily buy all the soyabeans that Bolivia produces. Colombia - previously a key soybean market for Bolivia - recently signed a free trade pact with the United States and can now get soyabeans at much lower prices, the Venezuelan president said.

Since a US-backed FTAA fell apart last year, Washington has signed nine free trade agreements with Latin American countries. Ecuador is currently in negotiations.

"Listen, as long as the free trade pact (with the United States) threatens the small and medium-sized soya producers in Bolivia, ALBA will save them," Chavez said. "We'll take them by the hand and say, 'Come with us, we'll buy your soy beans, look at the difference.' "

Before leaving La Paz for Havana on Friday, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said his government hoped that new commerce with Cuba and Venezuela would make up for any lost trade with the United States and the Andean Community.

ALBA isn't just about trade. Heavily political in nature, it also calls for cooperation programmes among nations, such as the Operation Miracle programme Cuba and Venezuela devised that is providing free eye surgery to needy people from other Latin American and Caribbean nations.

Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela to sign integration accord

Havana, April 26 (ACN) Bolivia will sign an accord with Cuba and Venezuela next Saturday, in Havana, to join the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) and launch the Peoples’ Trade Treaty (TCP).

At a public rally, held in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba on Tuesday, Bolivian President Evo Morales said that the initiative will allow a free-of-tariff flow of goods between the three countries.

President Morales said that Bolivia’s soy-bean production, whose sales were largely affected by the signing of a Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the United States, has secured its market in Venezuela.

He added that there was an interest in the purchase of quinua, a fat free highly nutritious plant and the trade of coca-leaf with Cuba and Venezuela for medicinal purposes.

The Peoples Trade Treaty was launched by Morales in an action to complement the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a regional integration program to counter the made-in-USA Free Trade Area of the Americas, FTAA.

The TCP was proposed by Morales as an alternative to Free Trade Agreements, which Washington intends to negotiate with Latin American nations, and that have deepened economic and social problems in the countries that have already signed such accords.

Washington has been pushing hard in order to have free trade agreements signed bilaterally with Latin American countries after its failed attempt to implement the FTAA.

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