Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Global Brazil and U.S.-Brazil Relations

¨Global Brazil and US-Brazil relations¨, the paper published by The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), New York in July this year, is one of the latest studies to reiterate and reconfirm the emergence of Brazil ¨as a significant power and presence on the world stage¨. The study has advised the US policy makers that the emergence of Brazil as a global power is an opportunity for US which should formulate policies to make use of the complementary role of Brazil in the pursuit of American strategic interests. The 85- page CFR report is the work of an Independent Task Force which consisted of 30 American academics, business leaders, experts and ex-policy makers.

The Council has highlighted the unique position of Brazil as a country with surplus food and energy in this time of growing global concern over food and energy security. Brazil is the fourth-largest exporter of food and leader in exports of staples like soy, sugarcane, coffee, orange juice and beef. It is a major producer of tobacco, cotton and cashews. The Report gives credit to Brazilian advances in agricultural technology and innovations which have made agriculture more efficient making Brazil as an agriculture powerhouse. Brazil has the potential to bring more land under cultivation than any other country in the world.

On energy, the report makes the following points:

-With as many as 50 billion barrels of oil beneath Brazilian waters, 167 million barrels of annual ethanol production (and plans to increase output to more than 400 million barrels by 2019), hydroelectric dams that supply as much as 75 percent of Brazilian electricity, and the world’s sixth-largest proven uranium reserves, Brazil is poised to become a significant exporter of diverse energy products.

-The Brazilian energy matrix is among the least carbon intensive of the major economies and has one of the highest shares of renewable energy in power generation in the world.

- The pre-salt reserves would place Brazil among the world’s ten largest oil reserve holders and a major global oil exporter. It may produce up to four million barrels of oil per day of which one million barrels could be exported. Brazil is one of just a few countries in the Western Hemisphere— Canada being another—that will significantly increase oil production over the next decade.

-Brazil is a major global ethanol producer, consumer, and exporter, and plans to double biofuels production over the next decade. Total ethanol production is now in excess of 430,000 barrels per day, roughly 80 percent of which is used by the Flexifuel vehicles which reached 94 percent of Brazil’s new car sales in August 2009. There are already more than ten million flexi-fuel vehicles on the road.

- Brazil holds 18 percent of the world’s available fresh water which is a valuable asset considering the fact that countries such as China and India face water shortages especially for agriculture.

- The Amazon rainforest is itself a precious resource, recycling carbon dioxide to produce more than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen.

Blessed with these God-given endowments, the Brazilians have started putting their act together to realise the potential of Brazil. The Brazilian government has lifted over thirty million of its citizens out of poverty and significantly expanded its middle class in the last two decades. They have achieved significant reductions in the levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment, and malnutrition with large-scale social programs such as Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) and Bolsa Família (Family Allowance). Brazil’s GDP per capita is now twice as high and poverty rate half of what it was ten years ago. The Brazilian economic fundamentals have become stronger and healthier which have helped the country to weather the storms of crisis coming from the northern hemisphere in recent years.

Riding on this new wave of domestic strength and confidence, the Brazilians have become increasingly active in multilateral institutions and international fora. They are reaching out to other parts of the world which were not in the radar of their foreign policy earlier. Look at their Africa initiative. President Lula made eleven official visits to Africa traveling to twenty-five countries—more than any other Brazilian president or BRIC head of state. In the last ten years, Brazil has doubled the number of its embassies in Africa to thirty four. Trade and investment are booming. The Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht is the largest private sector employer in Angola. Brazil has invested more than $4 billion in Africa’s agriculture sector over the past five years to develop production capacity. The Brazilian agri research agency Embrapa has opened a satellite regional office in Ghana to deepen research collaboration and strengthen its advisory role throughout the continent. Through the transfer of technology, skills training, research and development, and the infusion of capital, Brazil is breaking fresh ground in constructing a new development paradigm. For example, the Africa-Brazil Cooperation Programme on Social Protection, launched in 2009, creates a platform for Brazilian experts to work with their African counterparts in sharing their best practices in social development such as Bolsa Familia and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

There is another example of how Brazil leverages its strength in building Development Partnership. It is helping countries such as El Salvador,Haiti, Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal and Cuba to develop fuel ethanol programmes.

The CFR report has a clear message: Brazil is and will remain an integral force in the evolution of a multi- polar world. Its decisions and actions will affect the world’s economy, environment, and energy future as well as prospects for diplomacy and stability. Brazil is on the short list of countries that will most shape the twenty-first century.Brazil has transcended its status as the largest and most resource-rich country in Latin America to now be counted among the world’s pivotal powers. It ranks as the world’s fifth-largest landmass, fifth-largest population, and eighth-largest economy. Brazil matters not just regionally but globally.

CFR advises the US policy makers to recognize Brazil’s standing as a global actor, treat its emergence as an opportunity for the United States, and work with the Brazilians to to advance shared interests and common goals by reinvigorating and deepening their partnership through expanded governmental and economic ties. They recommend US to fully endorse Brazil as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

CFR has cautioned the policy makers to recognize that independence will almost certainly remain a hallmark of Brazilian foreign policy, even as the two countries develop a closer relationship. It expects that Brazil will continue to define its national interest independently from the United States, and the United States cannot decide where and how Brazil will engage internationally. Brazilians will resist a tight U.S. embrace, and warming relations will not necessarily translate into Brazil’s standing in line behind the United States. The United States will need to adjust to a more assertive and independent Brazil.

CFR has, of course, tempered the positives with the challenges faced by Brazil such as favelas, urban violence, drugs, poor infrastructure, anachronistic tax and labour laws, corruption and governance issues. It has also pointed out the vulnerability of Brazil whose recent growth has got acceleration by the tailwind of high commodity demand and prices and its overdependence on exports of raw materials.

Let me add here two points which are missing in the CFR report. Brazil enjoys some critical advantages in comparison to the other members of the BRIC group as well as USA. Brazil does not face any problem of terrorism which is a threat faced by other major powers. It does not have any land or maritime border conflicts nor does it face inimical neighbours threatening its peaceful existence. On the other hand, Brazil has embraced regional integration through Mercosur and Unasur whose collective strength reinforces the profile of Brazil. Despite being a melting pot with immigrants from Europe, Africa, Middle east and Japan, the country is free from linguistic, religious, ethnic or ideological conflicts.

Secondly, Brazil has become a role model for Latin America with its balanced and pragmatic mix of Inclusive Development and market- friendly policies. This has become the new paradigm for the region which has, in the recent past, gone through costly leftist and neoliberalist experiments. The Latin Americans recall the price they had paid in following the Washington Consensus which triggered a turn to the extreme left which also inflicted its own damage. No more imports of external ideology.... Brasilia Consensus is home-made.

India has rightly chosen Brazil as a bilateral, trilateral (IBSA) and global strategic partner. India's trade with Brazil reached 7.7 billion dollars in 2010. Indian companies have made substantial investments in Brazil in sectors such as agribusiness, energy, pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals and IT. The latest big ticket investments in 2010-11 were by Renuka Sugar (400 million dollars in agribusiness) and United Phosphorous Limited ( 750 million dollars in agrochemicals). Rattan Tata announced this month that the famous Nano and other Tata vehicles might be assembled in Brazil.