Category Archives: Countries / Regions

Lula speaking on Chavez

While it is in Portuguese, Lula’s words on Chávez are quite significant and revealing, particularly with respect to how the two of them managed bilateral relations and sought to address regional poverty concerns.

 

You can find a shorter English-language print version in the New York Times.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil, Venezuela

Post-Chavez elections in Venezuela — OpEd in The Australian by ANCLAS Senior Associate Sean Burges

ANCLAS senior associate Sean Burges has an OpEd in today’s The Australian discussing the role Brazil might play in ensuring that the presidential elections required in Venezuela after Hugo Chávez’s death satisfy democratic requisites. The full pre-publication text is below and the published version of the text is linked here.

Pre-publication text:

Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez has just died after a prolonged battle with cancer. While his death certainly raises questions about the longevity and sustainability of his Bolivarian revolution, it also stands as a significant test of the democracy promoting credentials of Brazil and the two important regional clubs it runs: the South American political grouping UNASUR and the trade bloc Mercosur.

Venezuela’s presidential succession procedures are clear. Article 232 of the constitution mandates a new election within thirty days if the president dies during the first four years of their term. The question many are now asking now is if this vote will happen – vice president Nicolas Maduro says ‘yes’ – and how democratic it will be, which is open to debate based on past precedent.

Historically, a free vote on schedule would satisfy Brazil’s pro-democracy requisites. But, events in 2012 suggest Brazil may now be valuing the spirit as much as the process of democracy. Venezuela’s upcoming vote stands as a test of this new pro-democracy policy in Brasília.

On 22 June 2012 Paraguay’s Liberal and Colorado parties joined forces to impeach leftist president Fernando Lugo in a process that many in the region now call a ‘coup-peachment.’ Strictly speaking, the process was legal, but politicized to the point of farce. Charges were laid, a congressional trial held, and a conviction delivered in less than a day.

What astonished many was the degree of political pressure Dilma exerted in Mercosur and Unasur to punish the political factions that had deposed her leftist ally, suspending Paraguay from both groupings. Suggestions that she was simply playing ideological favourites were strengthened when Brazil refused to take a similarly strong stance against Venezuela when Chávez failed to take his oath of office in January.

Such criticism may have been a bit unfair and missed the nuance in Brazil’s approach. Brazilian presidential foreign policy advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia offered the opinion, which became his country’s policy, that he agreed with the Venezuela Supreme Court judgment that as a re-elected president Article 234 of the constitution allowed Chávez up to six months leave of absence before a new election would be necessary. In an act of quiet bureaucratic resistance Brazilian diplomats pointedly noted that Article 232 still applied and that prompt elections would be required if Chávez died within the next four years.

With new elections now required in Venezuela we have an opportunity to see if there has been a real change in Brazil’s regional foreign policy to advancing substantive democracy or if the Lula-era tradition of selectively advocating a brand of pro-leftist democracy remains in place.

Make no mistake, the upcoming election in Venezuela is going to be difficult and divisive. The obvious strategy for Maduro will be to wrap himself in the mantle of Chávez’s memory while Capriles will likely resume his message of bringing Chávez’s social welfare policies to a sustainable path. All of this is an expected part of electoral politics. Where matters get tricky is the extent to which Maduro deploys executive presidential powers to artificially boost his campaign. One standout tactic from the October 2012 election was Chávez’s proclivity for mandating lengthy broadcasts of ‘government service’ programming to preempt television coverage of Capriles campaign events.

Another question is whether or not the military and security forces will take on the role of passive spectator expected in a consolidated democracy or if they will directly or covertly interfere with the campaign. Indeed, the temptation for political intervention by some sectors in the military will be immense if reports about their links to narcotrafficking and organized crime are correct.

Brazil has the back-room influence to prevent these sorts of violations of the democratic spirit of an election. Dilma as well as key advisors such as Garcia have enormous influence with the Chávez faithful. Moreover, Dilma’s 2010 presidential campaign advisors are likely to again play an important role in the pro-Chávez electoral push, fulfilling much the same role as Clinton campaign hothouse Carville and Associates did around the world in the 2000s. A behind the scenes steadying hand on Maduro-camp temptations to unduly exploit their position of power will be essential to the country’s future political stability. Venezuelans will know if the election is gamed, which would erode the credibility of a possible Maduro victory and further polarize the country. But if he were to win in a truly clean race it could create the conditions needed for a national political reconciliation. The same holds true for a possible opposition win. Even if uncomfortable for diplomats, helping to make this happen is exactly the sort of responsibility that goes with the regional leadership role Brazil has been claiming in South America. Post-Chávez Venezuela may prove to be Brazil’s first real test.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil, Democracy, Venezuela

ANCLAS Senior Associate Carlos Pio on the situation in Venezuela

ANCLAS Senior Associate Professor Carlos Pio had a piece on the situation in Venezuela published over the weekend in the main Brasília newspaper Correio Braziliense. The article is in Portuguese, but Pio’s main point is that Chávez is to blame for the uncertainties Venezuela faces today. Chávez has never tried to create a fully democratic regime, one structured upon solid institutions that can engage both the majority of his supporters and the vocal minority that rejects him in games of electoral competition and policy compromise. Instead, he chose to change the country’s name–to resemble that of his political movement’s; to persecute journalists, trade unionists and NGOs; to curb rights to private property and free information; as well as to arm groups of supporters. As a result, inflation reached 30 percent a year, investment, productivity and access to hard currency fell sharply, crime soared and the economy became even more dependent on oil exports.

1 Comment

Filed under Democracy, Venezuela

ANCLAS Senior Associate in the Australian on Chavez succession

ANCLAS Senior Associate Dr Sean Burges has an Op-Ed in today’s The Australian newspaper discussing the delay of Hugo Chávez’s inauguration for another term as president and what it might mean for future elections in the country. The website realclearworld.com has re-published the full text of the OpEd if you are unable to access  The Australian’s paywall.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Democracy, Venezuela

Brazilian taxes

Gregory Michener, an Assistant Professor of political science and administration at the Fundaçao Getulio Vargas (EBAPE) in Rio de Janeiro, has an excellent piece on the Al Jazeera website explaining new tax transparency laws in Brazil.
Some of the key points to take from Michener’s piece are the volume of taxes collected in Brazil — about $850 billion each year — and the reliance on value added taxes rather than income tax. This means that a huge proportion of the funds raised by the Brazilian state come through regressive taxation programs that artificially raise the cost of goods and services for Brazil’s lower classes. Then there is the cost of collecting and remitting these taxes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil

Corruption, Brazil and governments of the left and right

If you’re following Brazilian politics you know that a number of very uncomfortable questions are being asked about the Worker’s Party (PT — Partido dos Trabalhadores), Lula’s former inner coterie, former president Lula himself, and corruption. The organic intellectuals, to use a term that the Gramscians on the left in the PT might like, are kicking into high gear and trying to provide a justification that will wipe away some of the cloying mud that is starting to stick to their side’s public image.

Carlos Alberto Sardenberg has just published a penetrating OpEd in the Rio de Janeiro newspaper O Globo that takes on these arguments with a very critical eye. The Portuguese version is linked here. (A quick Google translation is below because it is the holiday season… not fully satisfying, but it gives a sense of the piece’s content). Where all this will lead is an interesting subject for debate, and one that is very much vibrant and alive at the moment. What might be most interesting to watch is how Dilma will handle a potential maelstrom of corruption allegations and investigations that directly implicate her patron, Lula. So far she’s let Lula hold-overs caught on corruption charges swing in the wind. Such an approach might not be so easy with an ex-president who was instrumental in her election. As Sardenberg notes, like Lula she didn’t win election in the first round, but had to go to a second-round run-off.

Robbing for the people

Author (s): Carlos Alberto Sardenberg
O Globo – 20/12/2012
Intellectuals linked to the PT are flirting with a new theory to deal with the monthly allowance and other episodes like, would be inevitable, and even necessary, to steal a good popular government.

This is a clear response to the weight of events. Lifter inmates, their friends and dedicated Shiites, anyone with a minimum of apprenticeship feels comfortable with the story of the “farce of media and judiciary.”

If, however, there is evidence that public money was stolen and that political support was bought with public money, they have two options: either disembark from a heroic project that turned banditry or, well, join the thesis that all government steals, but the leftist steal and do less to include the poor.

We have seen two recent manifestations of this supposed new theory. In “Leaf”, Fernanda Torres in defense of Dirceu, drew inspiration from Shakespeare to speculate: maybe impossible to govern without violating the law.

In the “Value” Renato Janine Ribeiro wrote two columns to complete: Communist revolutionaries do not steal, steal reformist leftists once in government, but “might” have to do this to ensure the social inclusion policies.

Lifter false theoretical sophistication, this is the update very old thing. Yes, the reader guessed it: the staff are retrieving the “steals but does” created by ademaristas in the 50s. Now is the “steals but distributed.”

Nor is it surprising. Also in the recent election period, Marilena Chauí Maluf had placed on the list of mayors paulistanos filmmakers works in group Faria Lima, and out of the class of thieves.

It is so because: Dirceu is not corrupt, or gangster – but corruption and participated in the gang because if he did not, would not apply as the program’s popular PT.

How do you get this amazing stop-gap theory? Fernanda Torres offers a clue when he comments that the PT is taken as the party of the Brazilian people. Now, it follows, if the elites are a bunch of thieves acting against the people, what’s wrong to steal “for the people”?

Renato Janine Ribeiro works on the same theory, adding cases of leftist governments succeed and corrupt. It is not clear whether they are successful “despite” corrupt or, rather, for being corrupt. But for this last thesis is that the author leans.

It makes sense, of course. Begins is not true that every Conservative government is against the people and corrupt. Thatcher and Reagan examples maximum right, not robbed and brought great prosperity and welfare to its people. Here among us, and to go deep, Castello Branco and Medici also not robbed and their administrations brought growth and income.

On the other hand, the PT is not the people. Represents part of the people, the majority in the last three presidential elections. But attention has never won in the first round and opponents always have at least 40%. And in the first round of 2010, Serra and Marina did 53% of the votes.

Therefore, in democracies the government can not do everything, you have to respect the minority and this is done by respecting the laws, including the prohibition of stealing. And by respect for public opinion, expressed, among other ways, by the free press.

Why do not tolerate these limitations, the authoritarian parties, right and left, impose or try to impose dictatorships, explicit or disguised. They think that because they are the legitimate expression of the people, everything can.

So we fall back into old thesis: the ends justify the means, steal and murder.

Renato Janine Ribeiro says that Communist regimes have committed the sin of extreme physical violence, eliminating millions. But they were ethically pure, argues: liked limousines and dachas, but not put public money in his pocket. (By the way, take note here: this is a preview for a possible defense of Lula, when they begin to show signs that the former president and his family abused more perks than you know).

As communists, we say, were not “pure” by virtue but by impossibility. There was no private property, so that the corrupt were unable to build personal wealth. They stole money from his pocket and reserving part of the apparatus of the state, while the people they represented starved. Pure?

Notice: In China, a mixture of communism and capitalism, leaders and their families amassed, yes, large personal fortunes.

Returning to our Brazilian case, let’s speak frankly, no one needs to be a thief of public money to distribute Bolsa Família and raise the minimum wage.

They want it all?

Dilma can approve the MP ensures that a fall in electricity bills. The National Electricity System Operator says there will be more blackouts because there is no way to avoid them without investments that require higher fares.

That is, the account will be cheaper in compensation vai outa

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil, Corruption, Democracy

The PRI returns to Mexico: first week in power

On watching Enrique Peña Nieto’s swearing in ceremony last December 1st, one could have been mistaken for thinking that Mexico’s presidential transition was going off without a hitch. Peña Nieto certainly enjoyed a much more civil reception from Mexico’s Congress compared with the cacophony of dissent that characterised his predecessor Felipe Calderon’s inauguration ceremony.

Indeed, the PRI  party managed to sail into the presidency and within a day of taking power had already announced the signing of a major agreement (“Pacto por Mexico”) among the three major political parties (PRI, PAN, PRD). The agreement sets out 95 commitments on a wide ranging set of issues including universal health cover, educational reform, human rights and victims’ reparation, community participation and public security reforms to combat violence, reform of PEMEX to raise productivity, among other issues. So, broadly speaking, it seems that the PRI had come up with a deal that no other party could refuse. This is the PRI, after all – they know how to negotiate and make everyone happy – they did that for 71 years up until 2000, to the point where this period of Mexico’s history was dubbed the “perfect dictatorship” by Nobel author Mario Vargas Llosa.  In 2012, with a harrowing toll of violence that has seen almost 80,000 deaths and 30,000 disappeared in six short years, some analysts have commented that perhaps the public was fed up with what they saw as an inept government and would much prefer to return to the well-oiled machine of the PRI, even if that meant democracy losing out. And that is what happened – after 12 years in power, the PAN party was booted out and the PRI came back in.

Enrique Peña Nieto waltzed into power after a seemingly effortless defeat of a legal challenge to his presidency – in September the electoral tribunal struck down significant evidence by opposition parties that the PRI had used extensive vote-buying tactics, media manipulation and voter coercion. Luckily for Mr. Peña Nieto this evidence did not seem enough for the judges or electoral commissioners to be convinced, who nevertheless later quickly ordered the election ballots to be destroyed in order to avoid any confusion.

So, with dissent having been dealt with, the return to power secured, there was only one thing missing to make this a real PRI entrance – and that was a showdown between police and the public.

30974_4595390356574_863590955_n66002_4582754883305_1872118757_n

Photo: M. Mora                                                           Photo: D. Jaramillo

The new president’s swearing-in-ceremony was greeted by  initially peaceful demonstrations against what protestors were calling the “imposition” of the PRI. Eyewitness accounts tell how the protest soon became ugly, however, as a number of masked demonstrators in khaki pants, black shirts and gloves started to filter into streets, ready for a fight, fitted with gas masks, burning property and throwing molotov cocktails. It didn’t take long for the violence to escalate and for the riot police to react heavy handedly, at times using excessive force against those caught in the melee and launching tear gas at close range. While some were quick to blame the student movement “Yosoy132” (I am the 132nd) for the violence, this student movement (which had been responsible for questioning the legitimacy of the elections and the manipulation of the media) firmly distanced itself from the violence and was able to link the combative actions to non-associated groups. It is unclear how the violence got so out of hand, however a number of commentators were not ruling out the possibility that violent elements had been deliberately planted in the streets to provoke chaos and thus enable and legitimate a heavy police crackdown. The Reforma newspaper published interviews on the following Monday reporting that some participants had been paid 300 pesos each to deliberately stir up violence on the streets.

It is difficult to assess these confusing narratives, however this sort of tactic is seen as an eery throwback to some of the PRI clashes with students in the 1960s and 70s and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a PRI government has been associated with repressive responses to civil unrest (take the 2006 Atenco operation under Enrique Pena Nieto’s own government in the State of Mexico as an example, or Ulises Ruiz’s government in the state of Oaxaca in the same year). Certainly the PRI has shown itself skilfull at breaking the will of social movements that dissent against it. Whatever the assessment of the PRI’s return to power, one cannot help notice that in comparison to the 2006 elections which were much more polemical, with only 0.56% separating the two candidates and half a million people camping out in the streets in protest, this last week in Mexico City has seen more violent confrontations. Outgoing Mayor of Mexico City Marcelo Ebrard spoke furiously to the media about the violence on Mexico City’s streets – he mentioned that Mexico City was usually a sphere of peace within the country, and how could these violent clashes take place? Some will argue that these responses are linked with the PRI and its ways. Six years ago there were 400,00 people camping out in the streets in protest against Calderon’s presidency, but not one window was broken or property was burned.

526772_4595390916588_1450689425_n532371_4595393196645_54017096_n

Photos: M. Mora

On Dec 1 and 2 initially over 100 people were detained by police during the protests .  A number of these detainees were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and picked up off the street. The final number then went down to 70 detainees, and 56 were just released yesterday. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have expressed their concern about the actions of law enforcement authorities surrounding these street protests, and have called for full investigations.

Week 2 of the PRI’s return to power and new educational reforms are on the agenda. There are a number of issues hanging in the balance and Mexico has a lot of challenges ahead in order to realise its full potential. Time to watch and see.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mexico

IMF’s new take on Colombia

In days gone by a visit to Bogotá from the IMF head would be the cause for anti-imperialist teeth-gnashing and worries that a new round of austerity was on its way. Not anymore, reports Infolatam.com. IMF managing director Chritine Lagarde is in Colombia for what Colombia president Juan Manuel Santos is describing as a ‘courtesy call’. For  her part Lagarde has been quite clear that Colombia is now a country that can provide assistance and services to the IMF, not the reverse. This makes sense. The Colombia economy is booming and the security situation appears to be set for a relatively amicable end.

Leave a comment

Filed under Colombia

OpEd on Venezuela by ANCLAS Senior Associate

ANCLAS Senior Associate Sean Burges has an OpEd in The Australian today on what the return of Chavez’s illness might mean for Venezuela.

For those wanting to follow the Maduro/Chavez saga, Americas Quarterly has a good piece on Maduro by Javier Corrales. Quick summary — Corales is definitely a fellow Chavista traveller, but he has a ways to go before he can must the almost automatic widespread support Hugo Chavez enjoys.

If you don’t have a subscription, an earlier version of the text is below.

Venezuela’s looming crisis

Sean W Burges

Senior Associate

Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies

at the Australian National University

 

Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign that ended with Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s re-election on October 7th, the mercurial Chávez exhibited his trademark ebullience and rhetorical extravagance. Even though he cut back on his public appearances, for the faithful it was easy to believe that his cancer had been completely cured. Now it is starting to look like the naysayers were right and that the cancer Chávez has been fighting since 2011 is terminal. A December 9th special session of Congress was convened to authorize Chávez’s travel to Cuba for emergency surgery this week, which will be his fourth major cancer intervention.

 

The problem for Venezuelans is that Chávez’s potential health decline and death could throw their country into a very messy political crisis and bitter internecine power struggle within the president’s Bolivarian movement. Worse, this could lead to mass violence in the streets as contending factions battle for power.

 

Article 232 of the Venezuelan constitution addresses two scenarios directly relevant to Chávez’s illness. First, should an elected president become unable to take the oath of office to start their term, the constitution calls for a new presidential election. Second, new presidential elections must be held if a president dies, resigns or is fired from the presidency within the first four years of their term.

 

Chávez appears to be planning for the enactment of Article 232. He made a pre-surgery whistle stop return to Caracas last weekend to unambiguously name Nicolas Maduro as his vice president and heir, calling on Venezuelans to support his candidacy should a new presidential election be required. In effect Chávez is trying to exercise a practice that Mexicans under the 71-year authoritarian rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party knew as the “dedazo”, or the touch of the president’s finger to anoint the chosen successor. The question in Venezuela is whether Chávez’s finger will be strong enough to reach out from his grave.

 

The extent to which Chávez dominates Venezuela makes little sense in a political context such as Australia’s. Everything in Venezuela is about the president. Whether loved or hated, he is talked about all the time and in relation to almost any subject. Within government and public policy circles no decision is made without the almost direct approval of Chávez. In the public and private sphere his influence is all-pervasive and unrelenting. Its dominating nature is particularly notable during elections. Although the actual act of voting is laudably free and fair in Venezuela, the extent to which Chávez’s popularly created cult of personality imbues everything means that conditions for the electoral campaign are massively tilted against his opponents.

 

It is also the strength of Chávez’s personality that keeps internecine bickering within the Bolivarian movement under wraps. Although Chávez is explicitly naming Maduro, a former bus driver and grass roots general for the Bolivarian movement, as his successor and protector of the revolution, there is no wider consensus or actual agreement that the vice president should assume the reins of power. In particular, National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello harbors his own presidential ambitions. Cabello also brings his own revolutionary credibility, which stretches back to active participation in Chávez’s 1992 failed coup attempt and successive ministerial posts over the last decade.

 

For Chávez the worst case scenario is that his two lieutenants will engage in a bitter struggle for power that will split the leftist vote and leave the way open for victory by Henrique Capriles, who garnered 46% of the vote in last October’s presidential ballot. With the dominating force of Chávez’s personality interred this is also a very likely scenario.

 

The implications for Venezuelans are deeply worrying. A complex system of corruption and patronage has arisen in the shadows of Chávez’s hyper-centralized rule, some of it with very deep links into the military and parts drifting into the shady world of narcotrafficking. A new presidential election thus becomes about more than who holds the country’s highest office. It suddenly becomes about who control of the real levers of economic power in the country by preventing close scrutiny of activities in the shadows. This makes the election a winner takes all game that no side can afford to lose.

 

Sadly this explosive cocktail of conflicting vested interests may prove to be Chávez’s lasting legacy, not the many laudable social programs he launched and the efforts he devoted to making Venezuela’s poor majority realize they have rights and can have a voice in the political system. Chávez’s death, when it comes, will put a severe strain on the Venezuelan political system and force complex and painful negotiations to reformulate how the country operates. There is a very real, but still avoidable possibility that these negotiations will take the form of violent street protests and gangland-style score settling, making Venezuela an even more violent place. The saving grace here is that an authoritarian retrogression is not a real possibility due to severe regional pressure to keep the Americas democratic, which is ironically due to concerns with the type of democracy that Chávez sought to build in Venezuela.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Democracy, Venezuela

Two OpEds on Brazil-China with Australian implications

ANCLAS Senior Associate Dr Sean Burges has had two OpEds published this week dealing with Brazil-China relations and ideas for balancing the relationship through cooperation with Australia and Canada. The English-language version, structured around some of the challenges that could arise from Australia’s focus on Asia was published on December 5th in The Australian. A separate piece addressing how Brazil might get past its current challenges with China was published in the major Brazilian daily O Estado de São Paulothe English language text is appended below.

 

A new approach needed for China
Sean W Burges
Senior Associate, Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies at the Australian National University
Like many other countries, Brazil is struggling with the relentless onslaught of Chinese exports. The Brazil-China Business Council convened its fourth annual conference in São Paulo to try and address this challenge. Some interesting stories were told, but not much new thinking was displayed. More worryingly, there appeared to be little recognition of the subtle warnings that China is maneuvering Brazil into position as a subordinate, vassal state.

China’s ambassador to Brazil, Li Jinzhang, used a mix of oblique messaging and ancient imperial strategies to quietly underline relative power positions and the limits on Brazilian aspirations for the bilateral relationship. Jinzhang deliberately spoke in Mandarin, not the Portuguese that we might expect from an ambassador to an important global player such as Brazil. To be generous, it is possible that his Portuguese, a language reportedly difficult for the Chinese, was not up to a major public address. But if this was so, why not use a common second language such as English, the international language of business and diplomacy? His message was clear: you must come to us and adapt to our ways and priorities.

Quiet reminders that China dominates the bilateral relationship were accompanied by a subtle warning to Brazilian industrialists complaining about Chinese imports and calling on Brasília to engage in further protectionist measures. Jinzhang told the story of a small Chinese village that, like Brazil, was a predominantly agrarian community. Through hard work and innovation this village transformed itself into an industrial powerhouse and now contributes just over two percent of China’s exports from a tiny geographical footprint. While gently delivered, the lesson for the gathered Brazilian business leaders was very simple: we are not going to slow the pace of exports and it is up to you to innovate and compete with us. More chillingly for Brazil’s leading agro-industrial business sector, Jinzhang also noted that a central policy goal of the new administration in Beijing is food security with an ultimate aim of self-sufficiency.

An implicit aspect of CEBC President Ambassador Sergio Amaral’s closing address was a riposte to China’s challenge. Unfortunately, Amaral’s idea of reinvigorating Latin American integration ventures to create a larger internal market and a common set of high tariffs to exclude Chinese products is an old idea that has failed. Moreover, the idea is delusional, completely ignoring that Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico have banded together to form the Pacific Alliance precisely with the idea of looking West to China’s Asia and not East to Brazil.

Interestingly, Jinzhang’s story about a Chinese agrarian town transformed by innovation points to a path forward for Brazil, one that would involve a very different direction for Brazilian foreign policy and major, but ultimately productive shifts in thinking by Brazilian business. There are two concrete avenues for action.

First, Brazil must increase its rate of innovation. The Ciência Sem Fronteiras program will help, but it is not enough on its own. Lessons from the Chinese experience should be added to the mix. Industrialization in China was built upon successive waves of FDI, which brought new technology and processes – Chinese firms engaged in an extensive process of international collaboration to drive innovation. Thanks to Ciência Sem Fronteiras Brazilian universities are already beginning to experience this through active engagement by universities in the US, UK, Canada, Europe and even my own home institution, the Australian National University. Business should follow and actively seek dynamic partners with whom new markets, products and processes can be explored and developed. The Brazilian Government could actively assist with creative programming at institutions such as the BNDES or new financing lines through the Banco do Brasil or Caixa Economica.

Second, Brazil needs a new approach to managing China. One option that will not work is the middle power route Australia and Canada have long-used to manage bilateral relations with the US. The commonality of interests is simply not in place to make this viable with BRIC-member China. Instead, attention should be given to a sophisticated ‘balancing’ strategy involving a partnership with Australia and Canada. Why these two countries? Both are relatively small and actively courting Brazil, which makes them manageable. More importantly for the impact on Chinese perceptions, they are the two other major mineral and food exporters to China.

With Australia, Brazil and Canada – a new ABC group of countries – engaging China independently Beijing is able to engage in a divide and conquer strategy. The end result is that Chinese tariffs let in raw materials cheaply, but price value-added products out of the market. This leaves the ABC countries as breadbaskets for Chinese consumers. Collective action might be an avenue for reversing this process and forcing concessions from Beijing.
China is undoubtedly going to one of Brazil’s main economic partners for the rest of this century. The danger is that relying on tired integration models and an excessively autonomist approach to engaging Beijing will quickly shunt Brazil back into a peripheral position as little more than China’s pantry.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brazil, Foreign investment, Foreign Policy / Diplomacy, Trade