A week before the signing of the FTA with the United States, the Colombian government was exerting intense pressure on the Bolivian Foreign Ministry, with the aim of achieving support for its proposal to modify a rule of the CAN (Andean Community of Nations), the Decision 486 on Intellectual Property.
Bolivian soy, Colombian market, GMOs and TLC
A week before the signing of the FTA with the United States, the Colombian government was exerting intense pressure on the Bolivian Foreign Ministry, with the aim of achieving support for its proposal to modify a rule of the CAN (Andean Community of Nations), the Decision 486 on Intellectual Property. Said modification would prevent the manufacture of generic drugs, affecting public health. As this is one of the conditions of the United States in the NAFTA negotiations, Colombia issued a decree that violates CAN regulations, for which the Andean Community Court of Justice sanctioned this country. With the change in the CAN regulations, Colombia sought to evade this sanction and pave the way for the FTA with the US. In exchange for Bolivia's support, Colombia assured that it would maintain the Bolivian soy market.
The Foreign Ministry called a meeting of the different sectors that participated in the FTA issue since previous administrations, to agree on their position. The position of the pharmaceutical industry was very strong in the sense of not allowing such a modification, despite threats from oilseed producers and because after a meeting with the United States Embassy, this country made it clear that maintaining the market for Bolivia in Colombia was impossible after the signing of the Colombia-US FTA. Consequently, the Bolivian government opposed the modification, but so did Venezuela, meaning that the responsibility for having prevented Decision 486 from being changed rested with both countries.
A few days later, Colombia signed the FTA where it commits the purchase of a quantity of soybeans from the United States greater than exports from Bolivia.
This generated the reaction of the soybean growers (ANAPO-CAINCO), clearly warned by Colombia. “We claim the passive and non-executive attitude assumed by the Government of Bolivia in relation to the productive sector that we represent. We ask for the defense of preferential Andean markets for our exports, ”said Carlos Rojas, president of ANAPO. He also said that if the Government does not cooperate with his request and makes this sector fall "they will fall together."
The moment was taken advantage of by the former negotiator of the FTA, Julio Alvarado to present his resignation, shortly after having to leave office, taking advantage of the opportunity to attack the Foreign Ministry and the Vice Ministry of International Economic Relations, with false statements. Julio Alvarado is one of the main responsible for the approval of transgenic soybeans, since his office acted as representation of the Foreign Ministry in the Biosafety Committee, therefore, he is a signatory of the Approval Opinion. In addition Julio Alvarado proclaims that transgenic soy is what makes US soy cheaper, forgetting that the US grants a subsidy of $ US 30 per ton to each soy producer. The subsidies that the US Government grants to its agricultural surpluses, as well as the large internal aids for production, contribute to generating a very large distortion in the price of products in the international market and therefore constitutes competition. unfair, inequitable and unfair.
If transgenic soy had not been approved in 2005, Bolivia could claim from Uribe the conventional nature of its soy, which would make it a unique product in the region. Anyway, according to Rolando Zabala, from ANAPO, in 2005, 1,607,795 tons of the total Bolivian soybean production was conventional, while transgenic soybeans would reach 381,100 tons, which is outside the growth trends of Bolivian soybeans. Let us remember that ANAPO executives usually inflate the figures for transgenic soybeans, pretending that the process is irreversible, but not even they dare to say that it reaches 50% as Alvarado said.
President Uribe arrived in the country with a specific objective: to attack the new Foreign Trade Policy, apparently still in the process of construction, but with some clear signs that are beginning to be observed, as in the case mentioned above.
Uribe's mission was to exercise a kind of blackmail to force the country to negotiate the FTA with the United States. His visit is clearly part of a strategy of attack and weakening, without any intention of negotiating, which is complemented by the work of the press media: “Colombia sent us to China”, Alvarado's denunciations and the silence of the Embassy from the United States.
Colombia is not the main buyer of Bolivian soybeans, but Venezuela, according to data from ANAPO and IBCE presented by Rolando Zabala in a presentation made in October 2005. (www.semillas.org). According to them, Bolivian soy exports were:
Destination Countries of Bolivian Oilseed Products 2004
For 2004, total Bolivian soy exports reached 1 828 545 tons, including imports.
If we multiply that amount by 21%, which is the total exported to Colombia, the figure of 383,994 tons is obtained. Taking into account that Venezuela will buy an additional 200,000 tons, there are 183,334 tons to be placed.
Here we stop to ask: How is it that the country imports soybeans if it makes so many efforts to find markets for domestic production? According to Kreidler and associates (in the study carried out for ANAPO: Bolivian soybeans towards the free market of the Americas), under the RITEX Temporary Internment Regime for Inward Improvement, "soybean imports have been growing, prima is mainly imported from Brazil and Paraguay, for internal processing and subsequent re-export. " According to Kreidler, in 2002, soybean imports reached 290,000 tons and in 2004 they reached 240,000 tons.
These imports allow countries that are not part of the CAN, to access the tariff preferences that Bolivia has and precisely through Bolivia. It is about 300,000 tons, which is close to the total exported to Colombia in 2004.
How come the ANAPO soy producers haven't said anything about it? Does it make sense for the government to make an effort to find markets for Bolivian soybeans and also for Brazilian and Paraguayan soybeans and that this foreign production also take advantage of Bolivia's tariff advantages?
And as if that were not enough, the company that carries out these imports is GRAVETAL BOLIVIA S.A., a company of the Grupo de Inversiones Osorno de Colombia, established in Puerto Guijarro, on the Bolivia-Brazil border. According to the company (www.gravetal.com.bo) “Most of the exportable offer of GRAVETAL BOLIVIA S.A. It is aimed at the Andean market and has a very important share of all Bolivian exports destined for this market. GRAVETAL BOLIVIA S.A. has exported 47% of the total export of Bolivian crude soybean oil and 31% of soybean meal respectively. "Let us remember that it is mainly the export of oil to Colombia that worries ANAPO. Isn't the Colombian government interested in favoring the Colombian exports in Bolivia?
To control the importation of Brazilian and Paraguayan soy to the Andean Community through Bolivia, the government must apply the Certification of Origin or exclude soy from the RITEX.
There may be differences in the previous calculation, but the loss of the Colombian market is not so dramatic or insurmountable, and it is not immediate. Therefore, the blackmail of Colombia to force negotiate the FTA with the United States is absolutely unacceptable.
In the same way, the attitude of ANAPO leaders to launch into the conversion of Bolivian soybeans into transgenic soybeans seems more like a strategy of other countries to nullify a competitive advantage of Bolivia, than when applied by the leaders of the sector themselves. It is nonsense, which is now more visible than ever, if not worse.
* March 24, 2006
Bolivian Forum on Environment and Development