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Incredibly unjust' trade barriers

In the latest salvo over a long-standing issue between Latin America and the industrialized nations, Mercosur, the customs union made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, called on the European Union (E.U.) to end agricultural subsidies. In a summit of the presidents of the four countries held in July in Ushuaia, Argentina, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said it was "incredibly unjust" to retain trade barriers on farm products, since this is the area where developing countries have the greatest potential for rapid growth. The summit, attended by idb President Enrique V. Iglesias, was held to discuss a free trade accord between Mercosur and associate member Chile and the E.U. Mercosur is the world's fourth largest food exporter.

Strike for women's leadership

A long-time idb official and later executive director for Venezuela has become the first woman finance minister for her country. Maritza Izaguirre was named to the post in July by Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera in the midst of the most serious economic and fiscal situation to affect the country in recent years. Izaguirre, a sociologist, had been a staunch advocate of social and women's issues at the Bank.

Education plan underway

Education ministers from the countries of the Americas and officials from international agencies met in July in Brasilia to begin putting together a plan for attaining the ambitious education targets set by the hemisphere's heads of state at the Summit of the Americas earlier this year. The plan includes development of measures to compare education levels across the region, improving the quality of teachers and school administrators, and educational reform. A major portion of the plan will be funded by the IDB and the World Bank.

Agricultural exchange created

The Central American and Caribbean Agricultural Products Exchange, set to open in October, is gearing up to handle transactions representing an annual $2 billion during its initial phase. The purpose of the exchange is to foster trade among the region's countries as well as to address problems caused by both scarcity and high production, particularly of grain. The creation of the exchange is being supported by the Canadian government.

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