No Go for Trade Zone

A 34-Western-Hemisphere nation summit ends having failed to bridge differences on a proposed free-trade zone.
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Leaders from 34 Western-Hemisphere nations Saturday ended a two-day summit having failed to bridge differences on a proposed free-trade zone stretching from Alaska to Patagonia.

The U.S., Mexico and 27 other countries wanted to set an April deadline for talks on the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, but Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela were opposed.

The summit, in the Argentine beach resort of Mar del Plata, went hours past its original deadline with no agreement on when FTAA meetings should resume. Argentina's foreign minister said a summit declaration would include statements from those in favor of the trade zone and those who believe further talks should wait until after a December World Trade Organization meeting, according to

The Associated Press

.

The summit took place amid anti-U.S. protests that turned violent Friday as protestors battled with riot police and torched businesses. Police arrested 64 people, but officials reported major injuries, according to wire-service reports.

The Bush administration says the FTAA would open new markets to American businesses while bringing jobs and wealth to Latin America.

The biggest critic, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, describes the zone as a U.S. imperialist tool that will hurt Latin American workers. Chavez, who came to the summit vowing to block efforts to establish the FTAA, spoke to some 25,000 protestors Friday.

President Bush left the summit for Brazil, where he planned to meet with his counterpart, Lula da Silva.