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What to Expect from the New Brazilian Govt’s Foreign Policy


Friday, November 25, 2022


What to Expect from the New Brazilian Govt’s Foreign Policy

By Guilherme Casarões

“Today we are telling the world that Brazil is back. Brazil is too big to become a global pariah”.

This was a remarkable passage of president-elect Lula da Silva’s acceptance speech, in which he emphasised the need to rescue Brazil’s international credibility. So, what to expect from the new Brazilian government’s foreign policy?

In many ways, Lula’s victory over incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro represents the triumph of democracy. He has been able to put together political forces from all across the political spectrum to revive the spirit of pluralism, negotiation and compromise that has marked Brazil’s young democratic regime. This is the Brazil the world has known and admired over the last three decades: A diverse, peaceful nation with a long-standing commitment to development at home and abroad.

While Bolsonaro remains silent about the elections, about a 100 foreign leaders almost immediately congratulated the new president as the Electoral Court confirmed the results. The coordinated global response reveals Bolsonaro’s diplomatic isolation and an affective memory of Lula’s years in office (2003-2010), during which he maintained prosperous relations with all countries. World leaders have also clearly rejected the possibility of an institutional breakdown in Latin America’s largest democracy.

A light-hearted Lula has declared that “the world misses Brazil” – and he is right. Besides nurturing good relations with countries rich and poor, large and small, Brazil has always given a significant contribution to major multilateral issues such as human rights, non-proliferation, and climate change. That seems to be the spirit of Lula’s third – and final – term in office: To restore Brazil’s place in the world.

The challenges are many. We are not in 2003, Brazil has not been able to catch up with the current upsurge in commodity prices, and the Brazilian economy is faltering. Moreover, the multipolar perspectives of the early 2000s have been replaced by a new Cold War-like scenario between the US and China, where both powers compete for trade, investments, and technology. This is a much less friendly world for an emerging Brazil, one that will make Lula rethink his foreign policy strategy.

Lula’s endgame 20 years ago – turning Brazil into a great power – does not seem a feasible goal in the short run. In other words, Brazil’s manoeuvring room is much smaller than it was in the past. We live in a more divided, more unequal, less prosperous and less democratic world. The answer, of course, seems to be adopting a pragmatic, forward-looking strategy. It will have to be gradual, starting with our neighbourhood.

South America represents a massive opportunity for the new government. From a political standpoint, the region offers a combination of progressive governments (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru) and moderate conservative ones (Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay), allowing Brazil to rebuild the foundations of regional integration. Lula has already talked about it in recent statements and speeches.

From an economic point of view, the Ukraine war poses daunting challenges to global production chains and food and energy security. But, on the other hand, the global crisis might be the path towards South America’s economic reconstruction, combining high-tech industry, agribusiness and energy production, with Brazil at the centre of this process. Also, critical issues for the region, from the Amazon to indigenous issues, from climate change to renewable energies, can be addressed collectively, tapping into the region’s enormous potential through dialogue and cooperation.

To do so, Brazil must address the Venezuelan issue head-on. Political and economic turmoil in Brazil’s northern neighbour is unsustainable and has led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the region. South America’s progressive forces cannot and should not be confused with Maduro’s left-wing authoritarianism. A power transition is most welcome in Venezuela but will only occur through ongoing negotiations, compromise, and diplomacy. Lula’s mediating role might turn out to become his ultimate diplomatic legacy.

Lula may also revisit well-established relations with emerging economies in Asia – and with India in particular. The IBSA Forum and the BRICS are crucial tools for reconstructing Brazil’s African policy, given the continent’s economic dynamism, and relaunch a much-needed South-South dialogue. Moreover, Brazil-India relations have an untapped potential for technological and economic exchange that might become a priority for Brazil.

This will not be possible if Brazil fails to understand how to navigate the new great power game. The new administration must adopt a pendulum strategy between Washington and Beijing, exploring points of convergence with the two countries and always keeping our short- and long-term economic interests in mind. The dialogue with Biden promises to be fruitful, given the growing US interest in issues dear to Brazil: climate change, democracy, combating racism, and economic development. It is possible to build a non-exclusionary relationship with China, also engaged in the environmental theme.

A strategic foreign policy should explore all avenues of cooperation, aligning the interests of vital domestic sectors – agribusiness, mining, industry, and civil society – with global opportunities. Judging by his successful foreign policy track record, Lula knows that and will find ways to make it happen.

Guilherme Casarões is a political scientist and international relations professor at Brazil’s Getulio Vargas Foundation, in São Paulo.

The views expressed are personal.

Hindustan Times

Source: www.hindustantimes.com

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