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LATIN AMERICA | 15-01-2020 09:06

US to prioritise Brazil over Argentina in OECD reversal

Washington to tell OECD officials that US now prioritises Brazil's bid for membership, rather than Argentina's.

The Donald Trump administration plans to promote Brazil’s bid to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, reversing a previous commitment to give priority to Argentina’s candidacy to the world body, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The new US stance has already been conveyed to Brazilian officials and to the OECD Secretary General José Ángel Gurría, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorised to discuss the matter in public.

Washington's position is now set to be communicated on Wednesday to the OECD board in Paris, where the organisation is based, they said.

The White House and the OECD did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro told reporters in Brasilia on Wednesday that news of the US decision was welcomed and that it shows his country is on the right path. The change in policy was first reported by Brazilian magazine Epoca and newspaper Folha de S.Paulo, which did not say how they got the information.

US support to Brazil was announced with fanfare by US President Donald Trump last March, during a joint press conference with his Brazilian counterpart Bolsonaro at the White House. Access to the group of 36 rich countries would help attract investment to Latin America’s largest economy and raise its global profile.

Yet in a letter sent by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Gurría in August and seen by Bloomberg, Washington only backed the bids from Argentina and Romania, rejecting a request to discuss further enlargement of the OECD. At the time, Trump said he still backed Brazil’s entry but never formally changed his stance. Critics of Bolsonaro cited the episode as evidence that Brazil was getting no benefit from the president’s full-alignment with Trump.

It is not clear if the US is only putting Argentina’s bid behind that of Brazil or whether it continues to support the country at all. Since Pompeo’s letter, Argentina has politically moved to the left, with the inauguration of President Alberto Fernández last month.

A government official in Buenos Aires declined to comment.

Joining the OECD has been a badge of honour for countries looking to show the international community that their nations have economically prospered. Brazil submitted its application to the group in May 2017.

by Samy Adghirni, Bloomberg

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