March 12, 1999
Latin America brings hopes, woes to Paris IADB

                  PARIS (Reuters) -- Latin America's economic worries and aspirations come
                  to Europe at the Inter-American Development Bank's annual meeting on
                  Monday, with the French hosts hoping to stem any loss in trade ties in favor
                  of the United States.

                  Political signals of European confidence are expected to come thick and fast,
                  with speeches from French President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Lionel
                  Jospin and his finance minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

                  All that against a backdrop of continued anguish about the outlook for
                  Brazil, even if the region's biggest economy appears to have weathered the
                  worst of a financial crisis believed to pose a threat to economic prosperity

                  Brazilian Finance Minister Pedro Malan and central bank boss Arminio
                  Fraga are using the occasion to woo back investors after devaluing their

                  As many as 5,000 delegates, from businessmen and academics to finance
                  ministers, officials or central bankers, as well as a handful of presidents,
                  were expected to attend the meeting.

                  The Washington-based IADB was created in 1959 to promote economic
                  and social development and is the leading official lender in Latin America.

                  Malan and Fraga hope a recent agreement on new funds from the
                  International Monetary Fund in return for further efforts to sort out the
                  finances of a recession-struck nation will help them to restore confidence
                  among foreign leaders and banks.

                  Other nations like Peru are expected to use the Paris event to work with
                  IMF head Michel Camdessus on economic reform plans.

                  The meeting will also provide an opportunity for the 46 IADB member
                  countries to weigh up work by leading economic powers to address the
                  financial turmoil which spilled from Asia to Russia this year to threaten their
                  own continent.

                  But France's Socialist-led government also sees the meeting as a timely
                  opportunity to ensure European trade ties over the longer term do not suffer
                  after the 1992 NAFTA free trade pact between Latin America and their
                  North American neighbors.

                  The 15-nation European Union is currently negotiating a free trade deal of its
                  own with Mexico and hopes to build on this at an EU-Latam summit in Rio
                  de Janeiro in late June.

                  EU Trade Commissioner Manuel Marin, whose native Spain is Europe's
                  main trading door with Latin America, said on Thursday he hoped the
                  tariff-cutting trade deal with Mexico would be wrapped up this year.

                  "This should help restore the balance," a French government official said of
                  the Mexican negotiations.

                  Moves are also afoot to widen this relationship to all the so-called Mercosur
                  countries -- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay, where Europe
                  is a leading trade partner.

                  Brazil alone represents about 40 percent of Latin American gross domestic
                  product of around two trillion U.S. dollars, and Mexico another 20 percent.

                  The Paris IADB meeting is seen by the French as a precursor to the
                  EU-Latam meeting, where they predict "major initiatives" to strengthen

                  About three percent of EU trade is with Latin America and trade with the
                  Mercosur zone doubled in 1990-97 to around 40 billion euros -- accounting
                  for close to a third of Mercosur exports and imports -- according to the
                  French finance ministry.

                   Copyright 1999 Reuters.