Bush Hails International Ethanol Production
Friday, March 9, 2007; 5:06 PM
SAO PAULO, Brazil, March 9 -- President Bush sealed a deal with Brazil on Friday morning intended to promote international production of ethanol, opening a six-day tour of Latin America dedicated to renewing U.S. commitment to a region that has become estranged from Washington in recent years.
Shucking jacket and tie for a hardhat, Bush toured a massive fuel depot to highlight Brazil's success in developing ethanol into a vital source of energy. The partnership Bush wants to build with Brazil is intended to further research on and development of biofuel technology and to boost private investment for such efforts in other countries.
The pact not only addresses Bush's recent promise to reduce the use of gasoline at home, but could also lessen the regional influence of Hugo Chavez, the leftist president of oil-rich Venezuela.
The deal followed demonstrations on Thursday in this teeming city of 18 million denouncing Bush's policies in Latin America and the Middle East--discontent that was raised in a brief news conference Friday afternoon with Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Asked about perceptions that his administration has turned its back on Latin America's poverty and problems, Bush said: "I strongly . . . disagree with your description of U.S. foreign policy. That may be what people say, but it's certainly not what the facts bear out."
Bush said U.S. aid to Latin America has doubled since he took office. "I fully recognize that money alone is not a sign of compassion or care, but it's money aimed at helping people improve their lives. It's social justice money," he said. " . . . We train teachers. We train doctors. We train nurses. And so the characterization that our back has been turned, it's not borne out by the facts."
Bush and Lula pledged to narrow their differences in World Trade Organization negotiations aimed at boosting the global economy and easing poverty among millions of people. But neither seemed optimistic that the talks--now five years old--would end any time soon.
Lula compared the complexity of the negotiations to a card game. "Of course, President Bush has his offer up his sleeve," he said. "Brazil has one in its breast pocket. The European Union has one stuck some place. And the others don't want to play."
Earlier in the day, Lula hosted Bush at the Petrobras Transporte facility here, calling their collaboration on ethanol the beginning of "a strategic alliance that will allow us to convince the world that everyone can change the energy blend."
Lula recalled that he has been pushing ethanol on Bush for some time. "I was almost obsessed by biofuel," he said.
Bush said wider use of ethanol would not only diversify energy supplies but also create jobs and help clean up the environment. "I, like the president, am very upbeat about the potential of biofuel and ethanol," Bush said with Lula at his side. "That's why we're here."
But Bush did not go along with Lula's desire to reduce a 54 percent tariff charged by the United States on Brazilian ethanol. "It's not going to happen," Bush said, standing next to Lula at the news conference.