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Bush Talks Trade in Uruguay, Defends Latin America Policy

10 March 2007

President Bush says he is following a quiet approach to diplomacy with Latin America that is yielding results. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from Montevideo, Uruguay, where the president is facing repeated questions about his regional nemesis, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

President Bush went to Uruguay to talk trade, but at a news conference with President Tabare Vazquez, he was asked about Hugo Chavez.

The Venezuelan president headlined an anti-American rally Friday in Buenos Aires, just across the broad river that separates Uruguay and Argentina.

Hugo Chavez said President Bush is "politically dead," and charged the American leader is afraid to mention his name.

When asked about the comments, Mr. Bush made clear he is not about to get into a shouting match with the fiery Venezuelan leader, and favors a very different approach.

"I would call our diplomacy quiet and effective diplomacy, diplomacy all aimed at helping people," said Mr. Bush.

Throughout his week-long tour of five Latin American countries, President Bush is seeking to promote programs that help democratic governments provide needed services for the poor and disadvantaged.

But here in Uruguay, one of the most prosperous countries in South America, his focus is not on aid, but trade.

Uruguay, a small country between giants Brazil and Argentina, has a growing economy and a highly regarded system for providing social services, such as medical care. Its desire is to expand trade ties with the United States, expanding the market for its beef and produce industries, among others.

President Vazquez said the issue was high on the agenda of their talks at his presidential retreat at a national park outside Montevideo. He told reporters, through an interpreter, that the trade discussions will continue.

"We have created a pace, starting with this meeting, where our experts, our ministers are going to discuss and make progress on issues of bilateral relationships," he said.

Speaking in the country where the first round of global trade talks was launched, the so-called Uruguay Round, President Bush said he remains optimistic that a global trade deal can be reached. He repeated his offer to cut US trade subsidies, if other countries do the same.

"The United States is fully prepared to reduce agricultural subsidies, as I explained to the president," said Mr. Bush. "We just want to make sure there is market access for our products."

The issue of subsidies has been a major stumbling block in international trade negotiations.

Immigration also was raised during his talks in Uruguay. That issue is expected to dominate talks in the coming days in Guatemala and Mexico.

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