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By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter

President Lula opens the WEF, photo by Alexandre Campbell.
President Lula opens the WEF, photo by Alexandre Campbell.

RIO DE JANEIRO – The World Economic Forum on Latin America closed on Thursday after a three-day meeting of some 500 of the world’s most prominent political, social and economic leaders, ending with positive signs for the future of Brazilian commerce.

President Lula opened proceedings at the Inter Continental Hotel in Rio on Tuesday with an impassioned speech in support of a new model of ethical Globalization that should “put people first”.

Prioritizing the creation of jobs and comparing protectionism to “a drug that offers immediate relief, but soon brings about a prolonged depression”, he was swift to condemn the financial models that threaten to bring the world economy to a standstill, and reasserted that only by countries working with and not against each other, can recovery be conceived.

“You saw when the Titanic sunk,” Lula said in his address “nobody escaped, whether in third class or first class – whoever was on the boat paid the price.”

The forum provided a timely opportunity for Latin American nations to discuss the impact of the Global crisis at home, since despite years of economic instability in the region the current problems are largely not of their own making. With the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico leading the way in terms of rapid growth and industrialization, the region looks set to suffer less than the likes of the US and Europe as a result.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Brazil, Henrique de Campos Meirelles, boldly declared that Brazil would emerge from the current difficulties quicker than most nations, though some commentators are also wary that the worst is yet to come, pointing out that that there could simply be a delay before the worst of the impact is felt.

For Latin America as a whole, however, the now widely recognized importance of these emerging countries in the new world economic order is of course a source for optimism and the proliferation of South-South trade opportunities with Asia is expected to provide a huge and sustainable flow of investment in spite of the current climate. World Trade Organization figures show that South-South Trade increased by more than 11% between 2000 and 2007, when it accounted for 16.4% of total world exports, and that trend has continued (Reuters).

“The periphery is no longer the periphery,” said leading economist Javier Santioso in his speech at the forum, neatly summarizing the shift away from the historic economic powerhouses towards what Lula hopes will bring a major overhaul of the fundamental principles of the International Monetary Fund.

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