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The Strategic Lines of Brazilian Foreign Policy

Clóvis Brigagão, 25 May 2009

Summary
Brazil is considered to be a global player on the international stage, wielding regional power, and progressively gaining international influence. Three strategic lines define its international relations: increasing nuclear capacity is viewed as a means of creating opportunities in the international system; sustainable development in the Amazon vies with security considerations; South-South relations form part of Brazil’s diversified foreign policy.

The article - The Strategic Lines of Brazilian Foreign Policy

Democratisation, regional integration and globalisation have led to changes in Brazil’s international insertion over the last decades. Many domestic actors are involved in this process, the most well-known being the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (known as Itamaraty). However, other actors with sectoral and multidimensional interests also contribute: different ministries, public agencies and companies; federal and local governments; corporate business represented by federations, councils and associations, representatives of industry, trade, agri-business and the services sector, and public and private Brazilian multinational corporations.
 
The search for greater international profits in the global market, negotiations on agricultural trade and flows of capital, technology and services are instruments of and, at the same time, challenges for Brazilian foreign policy. Brazil is already considered to be a global player on the international stage, wielding regional power and leadership, and progressively gaining international influence. At the same time, its foreign policy has become increasingly transparent, democratic and representative of the diversity of its society.

Three strategic lines define Brazil’s international relations:
a. The nuclear factor. Brazil is an emerging nuclear power, although its nuclear resources are used exclusively for peaceful purposes.
b. The environment. Brazil comprises some of the largest environmental reserves in the world and plays a prominent role in building multilateral frameworks for their management.
c. South-South relations. Within the new multipolar configuration, Brazil plays a significant role owing to its geographic, economic and demographic importance. It also plays a competitive and complementary role with other countries of the South in forums such as G20, BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa).

The Brazilian Nuclear Programme is considered by the leading elites to be a key instrument in economic development and a means of creating opportunities in the international system. Recent governments have consistently invested in science, technology and innovation with the aim of expanding the nuclear programme. Brazil even has the know-how to make an atomic bomb but it has pledged not to produce nuclear weapons and its constitution expressly prohibits the production of this type of weapon.

The government has sought to increase thermonuclear energy production (rising from the current 2% to 4%) and to reduce external dependence: Brazil has the sixth largest global reserves of uranium. The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency are critical and suspicious of the possibility that Brazil could develop nuclear capacity for aggressive purposes and they insist that Brazil should ratify the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Lula da Silva’s government rejects this proposition, asserting that the 1998 Constitution, (which states that nuclear activities are exclusively for peaceful means), in addition to the International Treaties already signed, provide sufficient guarantees. Furthermore, Brazil and Argentina have established a binational company for uranium enrichment in order to compete in the strategic market and, at the same time, to dissipate fears of an escalating arms race in the region.

Foreign Policy in Amazonia. Brazil has been criticised for causing damage to the environment, including the economic cost of such damage and its effects on climate change. Both at government and society level there is greater awareness of the country’s responsibility towards climate change and the sustainability of global resources. Brazil is aware that it must assume the cost of Amazon deforestation and to this effect, the funds Norway has contributed to the Amazon region consitute a new initiative with a positive approach, but which also poses challenges that must addressed.

Within Brazil, the Amazon region is viewed in quite different ways. Diplomacy seeks to win battles in multilateral forums while the army views the Amazon region through the lens of national security and fear the spectre of the Amazon becoming internationalised. The Armed Forces have acquired a double function; on the one hand they are actors in the defence and security of national borders and, on the other, they promote social, environmental and national integration policies. These functions, coupled with deficiencies in the public system, have contributed significantly to the defence and security capacity of the armed forces, while also enhancing their role in fields such as sustainable development and the insertion of the Amazon in Brazil’s international relations.
 
South-South relations are viewed as having great international potential for Brazil’s diversified foreign policy. The foreign policy of Lula da Silva’s Government stresses the importance of South-South relations as strategic axes and as factors in the diversity of Brazil’s international insertion. Initially, however, results have not been very significant. The G20 meeting, which could have concluded the Doha Round, was decisive in extending Brazil’s power within the international system, particularly in agricultural trade, but it did not prove successful owing to discrepancies over access to various markets and resistance by India, China and Argentina. In response to concessions by developed countries (EUA, EU and Japan) in the agricultural sector, and as a key to success in the “Development Round,” the hoped-for union of emerging countries did not happen. At the 2003 Doha meeting, this strategy was frustrated. Focussing all efforts in one forum led to isolation, and the breaking of ties of solidarity between “sister countries of the South” without the expected concessions from the EUA and the EU. BRIC has future potential and may have a role to play in the struggles between major powers. IBSA is an interesting inter-regional configuration, and it has initiated specific development and security cooperation projects.

The analysis of these three strategic lines suggests that Brazil is a relevant international actor seeking greater insertion in global politics. But it is crucial that the multidimensional interests of its foreign policy are managed appropriately, so that its projects, both current and future, can be feasibly implemented.

Translated from Spanish by Fionnuala Ni Eigeartaigh.

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