Reuters | Tue Dec 16, 2008
Bolivia to hold off on legal action vs U.S. over trade
SAUIPE, Brazil (Reuters) — Bolivia’s President Evo Morales said on Tuesday he would hold off on legal action over the U.S. suspension of trade benefits for the Andean nation in hopes that President-elect Barack Obama will reverse the step.
The United States suspended the benefits this week on the ground that Bolivia was not cooperating in the fight against cocaine trafficking, following through on a warning it made in September after Morales kicked out the U.S. ambassador.
Morales, one of several leftist leaders in Latin America who often clashes with Washington, accused the United States of "political vengeance," citing evidence that Bolivia had done more to fight drugs than other regional countries.
"Bolivia had prepared an international lawsuit to enforce the rules, but decided to suspend it, confident that the president-elect ... Mr. Obama, can repair this injustice, this vengeance," Morales said at a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean leaders near Brazil’s northeastern city of Salvador.
Bolivia, the world’s No. 3 cocaine producer, after Colombia and Peru, exported $363 million worth of goods and services to the United States last year.
South America’s poorest nation would lose $21 million per year in textile exports to the United States as a result of the measure, Morales told fellow heads of state from the region.
Morales has cited U.N. data showing that while coca crops expanded in U.S. ally Colombia and in Peru in 2007, Bolivia’s coca-growing area was roughly stable.
Peru, Colombia and Ecuador continue to benefit from the Andean Trade Preference Act and the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which grant most of their goods duty-free status for entry into the United States.
Bolivia has rejected the U.S. approach of forcibly eradicating coca crops, saying it only leads to violent clashes, opting instead for a program that encourages coca growers to limit their production for legal, traditional uses.
(Reporting by Raymond Colitt; editing by Stuart Grudgings)