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Making Friends Again

Notícias

Postado em 08/07/2015 14:03

 Unpopular at home, Dilma Rousseff yearns for foreign successes—and luckily, plenty of other Brazilians want that too

 

Fonte: The Economist

Link de origem: http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21656697-unpopular-home-dilma-rousseff-yearns-foreign-successesand-luckily-plenty-other?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/pe/st/makingfriendsagain

Data: 04 de julho de 2015

 

When Barack Obama took his Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, for a stroll around the Martin Luther King memorial on June 29th, the sky over Washington was cloudless. There was no hint, either, of the heavy weather caused by revelations two years ago that American spooks had spied on Ms Rousseff’s e-mail. She reacted by calling off a state visit, plunging relations into a wintry gloom. Nobody expects that upset to be forgotten, but the rapport between the presidents (pictured, with a ranger) has warmed.

So too have political ties, including in sensitive areas such as climate-change diplomacy. The leaders exchanged vows to generate 20% of their countries’ electricity from renewable sources (other than hydropower) by 2030. For Brazil, some recent emollience in American foreign policy smoothed the path to reconciliation: it felt easier to make up with an American president who is exchanging embassies with Cuba (see story) and pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran.

Apart from the fence-mending, Ms Rousseff’s trip was dominated by trade. She wooed investors in New York with infrastructure concessions worth $64 billion; and on July 1st she sought advice on innovation from tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. To coincide with the visit, America promised to lift a 14-year-old ban on imports of Brazilian beef. A deal easing non-tariff barriers and harmonising customs procedures could happen next year.

Ms Rousseff has reasons to be looking abroad for success. With her country mired in stagflation, a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal ensnaring more and more of her political allies, and her approval rating barely in double digits, her best hope of good news lies in external dealings. To Brazilian eyes the American economy looks perky, despite a blip in the first quarter, compared with the sputtering of emerging markets. The value of Brazilian trade with China was 19% down between January and May from last year’s level, as the price of oil and iron-ore exports plunged.

And the two big democracies of the western hemisphere could certainly do a great deal more together. Although the United States has been overtaken by China as Brazil’s biggest trading partner, it is still the country that buys the most Brazilian manufactures. It has also invested more in Brazil, $116 billion in total, than any other country. Brazilians would love to sell the Americans more aeroplanes and cows, and attract more of their firms. The two countries exchanged just $110 billion of goods and services in 2014—a sixth of the trade between America and China—and both want that total to double in a decade.

A Quickening Step

Whatever the domestic imperatives at work, the pace of Ms Rousseff’s foreign activities, since her second term began in January, has amazed diplomats. Even now, admittedly, she jets around less (see chart) than her peripatetic predecessor and patron, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, did. But she seems to have carried out more foreign business in the past six months than in the previous four years. A hyperactive new foreign minister, Mauro Vieira, has helped.

Some substantial work has been done. On a visit to Brazil in May the Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, pledged $103 billion in loans and investments that will upgrade ports and other transport infrastructure. At a summit in Brussels last month Brazilians toiled to unlock trade negotiations between the European Union and Mercosur, an ineffectual regional trade bloc nobbled by Argentina’s protectionist president, Cristina Fernández; these are poised to restart after more than a decade in the works, once Argentines pick a new leader in October.
Earlier Ms Rousseff had signed a (modest) trade deal with Mexico and a co-operation agreement with the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries which Brazil looks increasingly keen to join. In August she will host Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel. There is talk of a visit to Japan before the end of the year.

Full marks for effort, but caution is advised in assessing the probable net result, especially when it comes to trade. Brazil has had liberalising spells before, only to revert to protectionist type. No matter how often they say abertura (opening), Brazilian officials cannot shake off a mercantilist obsession with exports. Unless prompted, ministers in Brasília hardly mention imports, which are still impeded by tariffs and red tape. And for all Mr Obama’s talk of Brazil as a “global power” whose “national interests and values align” with America’s, he is busy forging a huge free-trade deal with Pacific economies (which excludes China) and a transatlantic one with the Europeans. Both these projects leave Brazil on the sidelines.

On the positive side, Brazil’s more outward-looking mood is a reflection of something more than the president’s personal imperatives. Many Brazilian business leaders have realised that to survive the next wave of globalisation they will have to learn to compete with foreign rivals at home as well as abroad. Some, notably Brazil’s highly efficient farmers, are already happy to do so, if it means gaining access to foreign markets, and their voice is being heard in government. “The biggest threat to Brazilian protectionism is Kátia Abreu,” remarks one insider, referring to the formidable agriculture minister whom Ms Rousseff has recruited from the private sector.

For Brazil to achieve its long-discussed potential as a global player (economically and diplomatically), it will take more than a politically needy president. Fortunately, plenty of other influential Brazilians, both inside and outside politics, seem finally to understand that.

 

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