The Miami Herald
December 7, 2001

Bolivian president, Bush discuss trade

 Quiroga: Talks 'productive'

 Herald Washington Bureau

 WASHINGTON -- President Jorge Quiroga Ramírez of Bolivia received a broad commitment to free trade from President Bush at their meeting at the White House Thursday, but left without much more.

 "I don't look for instant rewards,'' Quiroga said after an afternoon meeting with Bush. He called the session, which occurred as Congress debated giving Bush free trade authority to cut deals with leaders like him, "very productive.''

 Quiroga wants to sell natural gas to the United States -- especially to California -- and to Mexico, and argued that his country should be given better access to the U.S. markets.

 "We are not asking for anything we are not practicing,'' he said. ``We can sign a free trade agreement in two minutes.''

 Bolivia is South America's second natural gas producer with proven reserves of some 46 trillion cubic feet, and sells 30 million cubic feet a day to Brazil. The two
 countries' have a 20-year contract that will use 8 trillion of its reserves.

 Among the things Quiroga pressed for: renewal of the Andean Preference Pact, which gave Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru duty-free status for 6,000 products, including citrus and gas that Bolivia wants to sell to the United States. It expired Tuesday.

 Quiroga said the United States should reward developing countries such as Bolivia for fighting drug production.

 "We are doing our part in the war against drugs,'' he said, declaring that the fight against terrorism and the fight against drugs were ``two faces of the same coin.''

 He said Bolivia had also signed the Rio Treaty condemning terrorists.

 Quiroga, while still a vice president, started the ``Dignity Plan,'' which, he said, eliminated 90 percent of the country's coca production.

 Quiroga earned praise from House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., at a meeting with congressional leaders Thursday.

 "Despite being the poorest country in South America, Bolivia stands as an excellent example of how much can be achieved in a relatively short time,'' Hastert said.

 During his Washington visit, Quiroga has met with officials of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and Inter-American Development Bank officials.

                                    © 2001