Brazilian Foreign Policy: 2008

What is Brazil’s current foreign policy?

“Brazil is not a small country. It does not, and it cannot, have the foreign policy of a small country.”[1] These words, from the current Minister of External Relations express the essence of Brazil’s foreign policy. It is a country in pursuit of major power status and, as such, is trying to change the global balance of power in its own favor.

Internationally it chooses to pursue its goals through multilateral institutions where it is skilled at organizing consensus positions. It argues for greater equality among sovereign nations and maintains the policy of non-intervention.[2] These positions reflect a nation close to, but not within, the global circle of power. Any widening of the circle could stand to benefit Brazil first. However, to differ with political realists slightly, power is but a means to an end and the fins of Brazil’s foreign policy go further than the mere acquisition of influence.

Brazil’s current foreign policy has two general focuses: regional and extra-regional. In both theatres Brazil has taken a leadership role in representing the interests of developing countries, converting itself into a type of spokesman for the Third World. Its regional policy is oriented towards South America, as opposed to Latin America, where it is working to establish new South American alliances to improve socio-economic conditions at home and better articulate shared interests in international forums.

The meat of their regional policy has historically been focused on the southern cone states of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, with whom they formed Mercosur (minus Chile) in 1991 but, starting with the Cardoso administration of the late 1990s and increasing in the 21st Century, Brazil has tried to expand this zone of influence into the Andes. Some indicators of this change in orientation from the southern cone to South America in general are seen in its sponsorship of the First Reunion of South American Heads of State in 2000, the First Reunion of the South American Community of Nations in 2005, and the Second Reunion of Heads of State of the South American Union to be held in 2008.[3] The amplification of its zone of influence increases its regional markets helping to offset growing imports from the U.S. and the European Union.[4]

Another important facet of increased integration with the other large agricultural producers in South America is their shared interest in the elimination of farm subsidies in developed countries. Brazil has used its positions of leadership within the WTO and as the President of the Negotiating Group of Agricultural with the FTAA to organize enough opposition to scuttle major trade negotiations with developed countries until they are willing to grant more favorable concessions to poorer countries.[5] This participation is detailed by Amorim, who says,

“Without any wish to sound triumphant, I can affirm with conviction that Brazil has been at the center of the negotiating process [of the WTO]. In 2003, we created the G-20 in Cancún, when the United States and the European Union tried to impose an unfair agreement, which would have left agricultural subsidies virtually untouched and offered little or no liberalization on products that are of interest to developing countries, while requiring disproportionate concessions from them.

The G-20 has changed the negotiation dynamics under the GATT/WTO system. Thanks to an ongoing effort of coordination and political mobilization, as well as constantly seeking understandings with other groups of developing countries, i.e. countries that are relatively less developed, countries that depend on trade preferences, small and vulnerable economies, etc., it was possible to change the course of the negotiations.”[6]

Yet another benefit of closer political integration with the rest of South America is increased pressure on the U.N. Security Council to reform its membership. This aspect of Brazil’s foreign policy is based on the assumption that “there will be no order or governance in the international arena without those who represent the overwhelming majority of humankind participating in its management.”[7] Brazil has a big stake in the efforts to expand the Security Council because it hopes to receive one of the permanent seats that might open.

Other issues that are of importance to Brazil are development and the environment. Brazil is in a unique situation in that the vast majority of its territory is home to the Amazon rainforest. This presents a number of challenges to a country trying to develop its potential because it limits where and how the government can encourage growth at home and which resources it can access.

Other international agenda items are science and technology, disarmament, cultural diplomacy, human rights and social issues, drug trafficking, and terrorism. The last two have grown in importance as Brazil has begun to clash more often with the Colombian narco-terrorist/socialist revolutionary group the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) as well as drug-trafficking groups inside Brazil’s cities. To deal with the issue Brazil has begun to share intelligence from its Amazon satellite monitoring system Sivam with Colombia’s government and has offered to mediate in any negotiations between the two in the future.[8]

By Nathan Gill – Southern Affairs

Related Articles
Brazilian Foreign Policy: Actors and Institutions
Brazilian Foreign Policy: Traditions

[1] Amorim, Celso. Brazil’s Multilateral Diplomacy: A Tribute to Rui Barbosa – Remarks by Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations at the Second National Conference on Foreign Policy and International Politics. Brasilia 11 May 2007. [2] Ibid. [3] We will discuss Unasur in greater length further on. [4] Canuto, Otaviano. Foreign Trade. Brazilian Ministry of Exterior Foreign Trade Document. No date. [5] “A Giant Stirs.” The Economist. Brasilia, 10 Jun. 2004. 28 Mar. 2008. [6] Amorim, Celso. Brazil’s Multilateral Diplomacy: A Tribute to Rui Barbosa – Remarks by Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations at the Second National Conference on Foreign Policy and International Politics. Brasilia 11 May 2007. [7] Ibid. [8] “A Giant Stirs.” The Economist. Brasilia, 10 Jun. 2004. 28 Mar. 2008

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