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A Summit between South America and the Arab World
The May 10-11 Summit of South American, Arab nations aimed to boost cooperation, register displeasure with the United States policy

On May 10-11, top officials from 34 South American and Arab nations gathered to boost cooperation between the regions. Convened to promote economic, cultural, scientific and political cooperation, the summit ended with a broad declaration covering issues of high concern to Arab and South American nations.

Trade flows between Brazil and the Arab market totaled $8.19 billion dollars in 2004, five percent of Brazil's total trade revenue. Shipments of sugar, chicken and beef from Brazil to the Middle East are among the fastest growing exports according to the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, which estimates Brazilian exports to Arab countries could double within five years. Petroleum accounts for most imports to South America from the Arab market. Some of the estimated 10 million South Americans of Arab descent, many living in Brazil, maintain family and commercial ties to their country of origin. Many traders were present at a separate seminar and fair for businesspeople held during the summit which hosted 1,250 entrepreneurs, 700 Brazilians, 250 from the Arab world, and 300 from the rest of South America.

The document signed at the event, the Declaration of Brasilia, provides insights into Latin and Arab perspectives about US foreign policy. US policymakers would do well to understand key issues in the declaration which could later emerge as coordinated demands from a larger Latin-Arab bloc pursuing mutual interests during future trade negotiations. Key points in the declaration call for:

1.    Respect for international law and the United Nations as the preferred forum for conflict resolution;
2.    Resistance to unilateral actions and sanctions made outside the UN assembly;
3.    Support for broader measures to eradicate hunger and poverty;
4.    Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; particularly in the Middle East;
5.    A "just peace" to the Israeli Palestinian conflict and complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories occupied in 1967;
6.    Stronger UN role in the reconstruction of Iraq;
7.    Recognition of the importance of antiterrorism efforts, with a call for an international conference to precisely define terrorism;
8.    Recognition of all peoples' right to resist foreign occupiers;
9.    Promotion of scholarships and special cross cultural educational programs;
10.    Respect for Arab and Latin cultural heritage and diversity;

Members of the Arab market are unlikely to find the breadth and depth of suppliers for their increasingly complex capital investment needs in South America. Still, the signals sent from the conference provide broad "customer feedback" to US exporters interested in how US policy affects trade flow. Formal steps to understand and minimize these sore points between the US and the Arab market should be launched well before the next summit takes place in two years.

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