Brazil Foreign Policy
Important issues of Brazilian foreign policy in the Latin American context are economic integration within the framework of Mercosur, which originally went back to a gradual rapprochement between Brazil and Argentina since 1985 and was launched in 1995 with the involvement of the neighboring countries Paraguay and Uruguay. Bolivia, Chile, Peru Ecuador, Colombia Guyana and Suriname are associate members. Venezuela has also been a full member of Mercosul since 2006, but has been suspended since December 2016.
Although the integration efforts are currently repeatedly suffering from divergences within Mercosur, a long-term analysis shows that the volume of trade between the partner countries has increased significantly since the establishment of the economic association. In political terms, too, integration has borne fruit, as it eliminated old rivalries between Brazil and Argentina and strengthened democracy in Paraguay against coup attempts.
For the more distant future, the question arises whether the Mercosur economic area will approach the European Community. The negotiations on a free trade area with Europe were only pushed forward decisively in June 2004 at an EU-Latin America summit in Guadalajara, Mexico.
In contrast to the other South American nations, the Brazilian government will have to show a great deal of diplomatic sensitivity. Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay are challenging their existing debts with Brazil. On the border between Paraguay and Brazil, the situation of the “Brasiguaios” (term for the approximately 350,000 Brazilians and their descendants who live in Paraguay) is explosive. The Paraguayan landless are demanding the expulsion of the Brazilian landowners from their farms, which would lead to considerable integration and land ownership problems in the neighboring state of Mato Grosso.
Under the government of President Lula, relations between Brazil and some African countries took on great impetus. Since 2003, more than 150 agreements in principle have been concluded for South-South cooperation. The Brazilian development agency ABC (Agência Brasileira de Cooperação) had planned a budget of approx. 38 million USD for the years 2009-2010. The projects covered the areas of technology, education, agriculture, health and biofuels. 80% of these projects take place in Portuguese-speaking countries.
In relation to the superpower USA, as a country located in South America according to estatelearning, Brazil is trying to take an independent position. In contrast to the pro or anti-Americanism of Brazilian foreign policy, which used to be strongly ideological, the current position is characterized by a moderate stance in which national self-interest is in the foreground. Sensitive issues that repeatedly lead to diplomatic confrontation with the USA are often related to the dissolution of the principle of national sovereignty, which Brazil is critical of.
In the international context, Brazil tries to distinguish itself as a middle power. On the one hand, this is reflected in the country’s participation in United Nations peace missions (East Timor, Angola and, most recently, Haiti). On the other hand, Brazil is calling for a structural change in the international economic order. Important topics here are the protectionism of rich nations in the field of agricultural trade, new trade barriers due to requirements regarding the social and environmental compatibility of export items, patent law, biopiracy and the international financial system and the question of debt.
The Lula government had taken the first steps to give Brazil the role of spokesman for the South. A first initiative in this direction was the establishment of the IBSA Dialogue (Brazil, India and South Africa) shortly after Lula’s accession to government in 2003. Another attempt was made by the G20 group, led by Brazil, which took positions in the context of the 2005 WTO negotiations of the south should represent. However, it turned out that interests were also very heterogeneous within the group. Brazil is also part of the alliance of the four largest emerging countries – the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) – which was founded as a counterbalance for the large industrial nations.
After Michel Temer took over the presidency and the nomination of the neoliberal foreign minister José Serra, Brazil is on the way to a new course in foreign policy: instead of the other countries of the BRICS alliance, Brazil is again approaching the USA. However, after the recent election victory of Republican Donald Trump, it remains to be seen how the relationship between the two countries develops. There are also changes in the positioning in MERCOSUR such as the attempt to exclude Venezuela from the alliance. Since the neoliberal Brazilian government sees foreign investment as the solution to the current economic crisis, it is trying to open up the economy to the outside world, sign new free trade agreements and attract foreign investment through international companies in the country. In view of the unstable political situation in Brazil, it is difficult to assess the development of the Brazilian foreign policy orientation in 2017 and 2018 at this point in time.