Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva blasted wealthy nations for their punitive agricultural tariffs and urged them Sunday to "stop your hypocrisy" and start buying Brazilian biofuel.
"We have said that if we want to achieve success in the Doha Round (of World Trade Organization negotiations), then rich countries must lower their agricultural tariffs for poor countries' products entering their markets," Lula told Correio do Brasil newspaper in an interview.
"So, stop your hypocrisy and start buying biofuels," he said.
The WTO's Doha round of talks to reduce trade barriers was launched in the Qatari capital in 2001 with the aim of reaching a deal by 2004, but has foundered ever since, principally in disputes between developed and developing countries on agricultural subsidies and industrial tariffs.
Lula also said it was "inconceivable" that wealthy nations have tried to pin the blame on biofuels for the explosive rise in global food prices, which have led to violent riots in some poor countries.
Sugar-based fuel produced in Brazil is being fingered for causing global price surges -- an accusation fiercely rejected by Lula.
Brazil is the world's second largest ethanol producer, after the United States whose ethanol is corn-based.
"The world does not produce biofuels and has 800 million people who go to sleep hungry," he said.
"Those who criticize biofuels have never criticized the price of oil. The developed world imports oil with no tariffs, yet they place an absurd tariff on Brazilian ethanol," Lula said.
Lula said such a situation exists because Brazil's role in international trade has steadily transformed from minor role to major player.
"We are the largest exporter of coffee, orange juice, soy and beef," he said. "We can no longer accept the argument that rich countries want to impose on us."
Lula recognized that the market for sugar-based ethanol would surge if there were greater public support for the production of fuel from biological materials.
In the Brazilian biofuel industry, companies which produce agro-based fuels enjoy major tax breaks.
French lawmakers visiting Brazil last week said they were impressed with the country's biofuel industry, but warned that Europe would have to balance that model against the need to guarantee food supplies.
Former French economy minister and trip leader Jean Arthius warned in Sao Paulo that taxes on biofuels could be one form of regulation, with the need "to ensure food security" remaining a vital concern.
Copyright AFP 2008