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Brazil: Lessons of 2016 & Outlook for 2017

05 May 2017 12:58 PM | Marianne Hughes (Administrator)

By Daniel Zuchegno


Speaker: Ambassador Celso Amorim

Mr. Amorim is a Brazilian diplomat who served twice as Brazil's Minister of External Relations, from 1993 to 1994 and from 2003 to 2010. He was also the Minister of Defense from August 2011 to December 2014. Between 1987 and 1989, Celso Amorim served as the Secretary for International Affairs for the Ministry of Science and Technology. He helped to create UNITAlD, of which he is currently Chair, and is part of two United Nations Secretary-General panels: High-Level Panel on access to medicines and High-Level Panel on Global Response to Health Crises. He was also in charge of drafting the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

He served twice as the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations in Geneva and the World Trade Organization (1991-1993 and 1999-2001). Mr. Amorim was the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations in New York from 1995 to 1999 and the Ambassador of Brazil to the United Kingdom in 2002. He is also a Permanent Member of the International Affairs unit at the University of Sao Paulo.


The event was cosponsored by the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver


At the event, Ambassador Amorim spoke of the Brazil’s role and influence in global affairs and the future of Brazil’s presence on the global political stage.


History shows that to be respected and accepted as a global leader, a nation must be an economic power, commanding a large share of global output and trade.  The nation must also have a stable political climate domestically, be a military power, and have a global mindset or willingness to be an active participant of the global community.  Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world in both territory and population. It is a country without significant linguistic, cultural, racial, ethnic, religious or regional internal conflict. Since 1985 and the end of the twenty-one-year military dictatorship, Brazil has become a stable democracy, the world’s fourth largest, with regular, fair and free elections based on universal suffrage.  Its economy is the eighth largest in the world with one of most advanced industrial bases in the developing world having an impressive stock of  natural resources, Brazil is one of the world’s major exporters of agricultural produce and minerals and  is largely self-sufficient in energy becoming a net exporter of oil. Brazil is a world leader in alternative, renewable-energy technology, especially in the production of ethanol. The future of the Amazon rainforest, which is 75% Brazilian, is central to international environmental concerns.


Brazil has an outstanding record as an essentially non-military country having one of the longest periods of peace with its neighbors..  Brazils regional influence can be seen in its active pursuit of  a policy of  engagement, both economic and political, with its neighbors - especially in South America, to a lesser extent in central America (including relatively little involvement with Mexico) and the Caribbean. Its relationship with the United States is generally good, but remains complicated; Brazil, for example, has resisted the US agenda for the economic integration of the western hemisphere. 


Brazil is a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS), founded in 1948; and the country’s presidents have attended all five Summits of the Americas held since 1994.  It is  committed to the formation in 2011 of a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (with thirty-two members - that is to say, all the states in the hemisphere except the United States and Canada). 


Despite the country’s strong ties with the developing world and its extraordinary growth in its imports and exports, Brazil had been unable to acquire the decisive status it had long desired due in part to its failure to complement diplomacy with a commanding lead in its military power. In recent history, no great power has acquired a determined voice in international affairs without a major investment in military manpower and hardware.  Despite its moderate military strength, Brazil has participated in 33 U.N. missions since 1948, contributing around 27,000 troops to peacekeeping activities throughout the world in such diversified locations including Suez, Mozambique, and East Timor. Since 2004, Brazil has led the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) with the largest contingent of forces in the country, and in 2011, the Brazilian Navy took command of the Maritime Task Force at the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).


Ambassador Amorim argued that under president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazilian government international relations was prompted by three policy dimensions: an economic diplomacy, political reform, and a social agenda. This internal triad of policies under Lula had significant international impacts, since they were an answer to the need for an agenda that sought  to deal with the asymmetries brought about by a globalization policy based only on free trade and foreign direct investment ascribed to Washington and Europe. Such actions as the stimulus to internal markets and savings, domestic internal production and the reforms of domestic industrial capacities were seen by the Brazilian government as being impeded by the global development policies of the world’s dominant industrial nations.


The combination of domestic social, energy, urban and agrarian productive policies showed a political will of the Lula  government to exercise a strong  hand  in the  global defense  of Brazilian economic interests. Brazil embarked on an intense international agenda, transcending a subordinated approach to globalization in favor of a more active leadership role leading to actions that could affect the course of regional and world events.


As a global trader, Brazil wished to keep its relations with different areas of the world, giving priority to Mercosur and South  American  integration. As soon as Brazilian diplomacy started to contest some guidelines of US hegemonic power and stress its autonomy, a certain amount of leverage was created.  Subsequently, Brazil was able to call attention to the social-economic demands and infrastructure projects being pursued both internally and regionally with its neighboring nations.


Brazil’s diplomacy dilemma was to face the unavoidable and tough dialogue among opposites,by strengthening its stance in the world and in South America. Friendly, but defiant, Brazilian diplomacy created its alliance with developing countries that were affected by the global trade and political policies of  the G20 nations. In broader terms, in the first years of the Lula administration,  Brazil strengthened—and in some cases established—strategic partnerships with China, India, Russia, and South Africa. As a result, the nation created new channels of cooperation among developing nations, such as the IBSA Dialogue Forum—a mechanism for cooperation and political consultation involving India, Brazil and South Africa.  Another channel was the establishment of a summit process involving Arab countries and South America and, separately, African countries and South America.  


Brazil’s multi-lateral coalitions, bi-lateral strategic partnerships and South-South alliances have enabled the country and its partners to fill a power vacuum in the international field in an effective and rapid manner. Brazil’s international presence prevented what was an essentially unbalanced trade negotiation process—based on the “Washington Consensus”—from becoming reality.  By sticking to its principles rather than giving into the prescribed globalization model, Brazil was able to protect and continue its internal policy development options.


Although  Brazil’s emergence in the global economic and political arena has been rapid and impressive it remains to be seen whether it will be able to continue on this path or see its influence slowly decline as other nations begin to emerge. Several commentators have argued that Brazil’s rise in influence in global affairs has not been due to the rising importance of the Brazilian economy or its influence in global trade but due almost exclusively to the skill, integrity, and stature of its very capable diplomats such as Ambassador Celso Amorim. Ambassador Amorim’s presence and discourse at the World Denver event only serve to fuel that impression.


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