Zoellick hits at U.S. on trade, says Chavez's clout waning
He referred to a proposal in April by former U.S. assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, Bernard Aronson, that Brazil should voluntarily end its uranium enrichment program and call on other nations, including Iran, to follow its example.
"If Brazil wants to help shape the 21st Century, leadership in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons - with an idea and action - would send a powerful signal," said Zoellick, a former deputy U.S. secretary of state.
CRIME AND VIOLENCE
He also warned that fragile governments of Central America are at risk of being overwhelmed by crime and violence linked to drug trafficking, gangs and organized crime. The United States should take responsibility for the drug habits of its public that fuel demand for narcotics trade from the south, he added.
Zoellick, a former U.S. trade representative, said the United States should pursue new ways of trading with the region. Washington's influence in the region has long been dominated by trade and investment but is increasingly being weakened by China's growing influence.
"The United States is no longer leading the open trade agenda, as it relies increasingly on defensive measures," he said. "The United States has its own high costs of trade - antiquated ports and laws to protect special interests."
Zoellick said the current structure of U.S. Free Trade Agreements (FTA's) with the region offered a solid legal framework. Yet, Washington could use it as a way to explore ways to further reduce trade barriers and create fresh opportunities.
"The United States needs to make its hemispheric FTA network dynamic, linked to business and investment policies, and improved governance," he said.
He said innovation in the energy sector could transform regional energy security in the region, especially if Mexico opens its oil company PEMEX to outside investment and Brazil increased oil and gas supplies to the region from its giant deep offshore PRESAL oil and gas fields.
In particular, more cooperation in energy could help poorer countries in Central America and the Caribbean that have long suffered from high energy costs, Zoellick added.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis in Caracas; Editing by Vicki Allen)
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