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Brazil’s foreign policy is too active, ambitious and naive

WLuis Inacio Lula da Silva was elected as Brazil’s president in October, his victory speech hinted at his global ambitions: “Today we say to the world that Brazil is back.” In his first 100 days in office, the well-known Lula tried to prove with a series of trips abroad at this point. In January, he visited his Argentine counterpart. In February, he went to the United States to meet with President Biden. April 14, as economist At press time, he was scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Next week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Brazil. Lula also wants to lead the fight against climate change and start a “peace club” to end the war in Ukraine. In March, his top foreign policy aides traveled secretly to Moscow to discuss the idea with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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As in his previous two terms in office, from 2003 to 2010, Lula wants Brazil to have a seat at the table on today’s most intractable issues. His ambition should be taken seriously. As president in the early 2000s, Lula developed a pragmatic, independent foreign policy focused on pursuing Brazil’s interests and creating a “multipolar” world amid US hegemony.he helped find BRICS countries– an emerging bloc of economies that includes Russia, India, China and South Africa – and has angered the United States by trying to strike a deal with Turkey over Iran’s nuclear program that would allow Iran to send enriched uranium to Turkey rather than shut down its program.

Yet while Lula’s international ambitions remain grand, Brazil and the world have changed since he took office. Brazil is more polarized and Lula’s domestic support has dwindled: he won elections last year by 1.8 percentage points, the narrowest victory since Brazil returned to democracy in 1989. China is no longer an emerging market, but a world power. Wars broke out in Europe and human rights abuses intensified in Latin America. All of this adds to the cost of maintaining intimacy with everyone. Brazil’s commitment to non-alignment will be severely tested during Lula’s third term. Lula tried to play the role of global peacemaker, at the risk of looking naive rather than elder statesman.

In many ways, Lula’s active diplomacy represents a continuation of the Brazilian tradition.Brazil is home to a third of Latin America’s population, with almost the same proportion gross domestic product. It fought alongside the Allies in both world wars and has long claimed United Nations security council. Its mediation of local conflicts has made South America the region with the fewest interstate wars. The 1988 constitution states that foreign policy should be based on non-intervention, the peaceful resolution of conflicts and “the equality of nations”.

Brazil’s foreign policy has suffered under Lula’s protégé, Dilma Rousseff, and her successor, Michel Temer, under Ms Rousseff’s leadership. China’s economic mismanagement led to a deep recession in the mid-2010s before turning inward. Right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro, who will be president from 2019 to 2022, made matters worse. He bashes China and mostly calls on other nationalists, such as Donald Trump. His passionate support for deforestation has made Brazil an international pariah. Lula wanted to fix that.

His first balancing act will be to manage the rivalry between the US and China. Lula’s foreign minister, Mauro Vieira, has said there will be no “automatic alliance” in Brazil. During their meeting, Lula and Mr. Biden focused on democratic values, human rights and the environment. They bonded over similar experiences with the rebels. (Supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro stormed government buildings in January, as some Trump supporters did in January 2021.) However, while officials say the visit was a success , but the result is not satisfactory. The United States has expressed its intention to donate $50 million to the Amazon Fund, a $1 billion mechanism to reduce deforestation. Germany recently pledged more than four times that amount.

Where is the beef?

In contrast, Sergio Amaral, Brazil’s former ambassador to the United States, said the agenda with China was more “specific, broad and far-reaching”. The trip was originally scheduled for March but was postponed after Lula contracted pneumonia. It was supposed to include a delegation of five ministers, dozens of lawmakers and 240 business representatives.

Signs of goodwill abound before the initial trip. China lifted a month-old moratorium on buying Brazilian beef after a case of mad cow disease was detected in Brazil. Under Mr Bolsonaro, it took three months for a similar ban to be lifted. The Brazilian government is taking steps to allow trade to be settled in China’s currency, renminbi. It may sign up to China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, an infrastructure plan.

More than 20 agreements are expected to be signed on the rescheduled trip, ranging from renewable energy investments to technology partnerships.Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva told economist One priority is to seek investment in renewable energy, especially green hydrogen, a fuel that can be produced using the power of the sun and wind. Another important area is satellites. But any new agreement could unnerve the United States, concerned that satellites could be used to monitor military activity.

Most agreements will be related to food. A third of the business representatives in the original delegation – many of whom arrived before Lula postponed his first visit – were from the agricultural sector. Marcio Rodrigues, export director of meatpacking giant Masterboi, in Beijing in March. “The Chinese are very receptive,” he said, noting that several beef, pork and chicken companies received licenses to export to China despite Lula’s absence. Brazil also wants to diversify and add higher-value commodities to its export basket. In November, China opened its market to Brazilian corn. Now Brazil will compete with the United States to become the world’s largest exporter of things. Next might be rice and some types of fruit like grapes and limes.

The weighting of the agribusiness delegation reflects the nature of the relationship based on Brazilian commodity exports. China surpassed the United States in 2009 to become Brazil’s largest trading partner. Today, China imports almost two-thirds of its soybeans, two-fifths of its beef and one-fifth of its iron ore from Brazil.However, the US remains by far the largest investor Foreign Direct Investment. According to the Central Bank of Brazil, it held $124 billion in investments in Brazil in 2020, compared with only $23 billion from China. Meanwhile, most of Brazil’s exports to the U.S. are higher value, including aircraft and steel. “We are all dependent on these two countries,” said Dawisson Belém Lopes of the Federal University of Minas Gerais. Deepening trade with China is unlikely to anger the US.

Lula may alienate his Brazilian partners in pursuit of his ambition to become a global peacemaker. His earlier attempts to broker a deal on Iran angered the United States. Lula doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson. His proposal to form a “peace club” to end the war in Ukraine has angered the West, which sees Lula as too soft on Russia, and Xi Jinping, who has plans of his own.

(FILE) This Sept. 16, 2022 file photo shows logged and burned areas of the Amazon rainforest on a section of the BR-230 (Transamazonian Highway) in Humaitá, Amazonas state, Brazil.  - Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest in the first quarter of 2023 was one of the worst on record, according to official figures released on April 7, 2023. The figures show the scale of the task facing leftist President Luis Inácio Lurada, just 100 days after Silva returned to power.  (Photo by Michael Dantas/AFP) (Photo by Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty Images)
worth fighting for

So far, Lula’s attempt at non-alignment appears to be one-sided.despite brazil voting United Nations Condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lula said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “has the same responsibility for this war as Putin”. He reiterated that in January after rejecting a German request to send ammunition to Ukraine.

Since then, he has softened his language. On April 6, he conceded that Russia “cannot keep the Ukrainian territories it has occupied since 2022,” although he suggested Ukraine might have to surrender Crimea. Still, when Lula’s top foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, visited Europe in March, he met Putin in Moscow but did not visit Ukraine. The most Lula did was Skype with Mr Zelensky.Russia is not only a partner BRICS countries, but supplies a quarter of Brazil’s fertilizers. Mr Amorim met Mr Putin, but not someone of similar rank, suggesting Russia could also benefit from its relationship with Brazil.

Bruna Santos of the Wilson Center, an American think tank, said: “If you want to be valued in the dialogue to de-escalate this conflict, you have to visit both sides.” In addition to appearing partial, Lula may also appear naive. Oliver Stuenkel of the Getulio Vargas University Foundation said Brazil lacked the geopolitical clout to get Ukraine or Russia to comply with the terms of the agreement. “There is still a perception that the worst-case scenario is that Brazil’s peace initiative does not have the desired effect. But there is actually a risk of undermining Brazil’s relations with Europe and the United States.”

Brazil has a better chance of mediating closer to home. Shortly before Mr Amorim left for Moscow, he met with Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and members of the Venezuelan opposition (presidential elections are due next year). Since returning to power, Lula has revived clichés about regional cooperation and is pushing for a deal between the EU and Mercosur, the trading bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, to be ratified this year . But in Nicaragua, ruled by dictator Daniel Ortega, he may struggle to be an honest broker. Lula compared Mr Ortega’s 16-year rule, cemented by persecuting rivals, to Angela Merkel’s democratic term of a similar length in Germany. That hardly endears him to the opposition.

However, Brazil will have the opportunity to play a leading role in climate change policy.lula is trying to host police30 years old, environmentalist, 2025. He also seeks to reactivate the Amazon Pact, signed in 1978, which brings together the eight countries that share the rainforest. Between 2004 and 2012, the annual rate of deforestation in the Amazon fell by 80%, thanks in part to stricter laws pushed by then-Lula’s climate czar, Ms Silva. She is now back at her old job.

All of this means that Brazil is already a global power when it comes to the biggest issues concerning the future of humanity. Lula’s legacy may be better served by spending energy on areas of Brazil’s influence, such as the environment, rather than on major political topics over which Brazil has little or no influence.

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