What will Brazil gain (or lose) from Bolsonaro’s cozying up to the U.S.?

. Dec 13, 2018
What will Brazil gain (or lose) from Bolsonaro's cozying up to the U.S.? Jair Bolsonaro supporters celebrate his electoral victory at Paulista Avenue.

Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of president-elect Jair, wore his “Trump 2020” baseball cap with pride on November 27, during a visit to Washington D.C. The headgear, more than just an accessory, indicates that the future Brazilian government is running the risk of not just being “aligned” with the U.S., but decidedly “Trumpist,” according to specialists.

This is because, in the two months since his election, Jair Bolsonaro and his government team have already announced that they plan to move their embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem while also being more critical of China. Members of his transition team have also expressed a skepticism about climate change. These stances are similar, if not identical, to those of U.S. President Donald Trump.

According to Fernanda Magnotta, coordinator of International Relations at São Paulo-based university FAAP, alignment with the U.S. is hardly a never-before-seen feature of Brazilian foreign policy.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During the period of democratization and after the enactment of the new Brazilian Constitution, presidents Fernando Collor de Mello (1990-1992) and Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2002) were significantly close with the </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">U.S.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> &#8220;Both were pro-alignment [with the U.S.] but none of them in the same way we are seeing now,&#8221; the specialist stated.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;The debate surrounding alignment with or autonomy from the </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">U.S.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> is nothing new. In truth, choosing between these two paradigms has been a tradition of Brazilian foreign policy, which operates in a pendular form, swaying from one side to the other. The difference now is that the new government seems to be more than just pro-alignment: it&#8217;s also Trumpist, and like Mr. Trump, it is anti-globalist, occidentalist, and bilateralist,&#8221; she believes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Ms. Magnotta&#8217;s opinion, Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s choice may accrue trade advantages for Brazil through its relationship with the </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">U.S.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, but also negative consequences on the international stage if the country opts to break with other partners.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;A cooperative re-engagement between Brazil and the U.S. —countries which are important historical partners but whose bilateral relations have been treated with apathy since the Dilma Rousseff government and successive crises—could favor trade, particularly in the industrial sector and high-value manufactured goods,&#8221; said Ms. Magnotta.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Other sectors in Brazil which may be benefitted are defense and security, with an increase in technical and strategic cooperation in combatting transnational crimes, as well as the financial sector, with an increase in foreign investment.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, specialists warn that these benefits would be overshadowed if Brazil was to break with its other trade partners.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;Everything will depend on how Brazil will negotiate its network of relationships, and this is not yet clear. Alignment with the U.S. does not necessarily represent a break with other partners, be they in Latin America, Europe, Africa, or Asia. The majority of governments tend to establish an emphasis in a particular direction without, however, abandoning the rest,&#8221; Ms. Magnotta stated.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;In general, they should seek diversification if only for a question of managing risks of dependency and increasing the efficiency of exchanges. If the new government acts pragmatically, that is what it will do. Also because Brazil has important partners today which, if abandoned, would represent severe damage to the Brazilian economy, beyond a diplomatic crisis, such as Mercosur, China, Middle Eastern countries in particular,&#8221; she added. </span></p> <h2>Remaining chums with China</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Roberto Dumas, professor of International Economics at Ibmec-SP, one of the biggest losses for Brazil would be caused by distancing itself from China</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;It would be healthy to get closer to the U.S. in order not to remain <a href="">dependent on China</a>, seeing as Brazil&#8217;s exportation portfolio to the U.S involves a much higher value (aircraft, coffee, machinery) than that to China, of which 80 percent is commodities. But Brazil needs to get closer to everyone, not just the U.S. No-one is asking them to start a fight with China to get closer to the U.S.,&#8221; said Mr. Dumas</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to the professor, following Mr. Trump&#8217;s idea of moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would also cause a significant impact on Brazilian exports to Middle-Eastern countries</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;Islamic countries buy the most animal protein in the world. Brazil sells the most halal meat to Islamic countries. Why would they want to start this fight?&#8221; he argued.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the long-term, the Trumpist foreign policy will make diplomatic relations difficult in general, even with the </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">U.S.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> themselves if Mr. Trump does not win re-election in 2020.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;There was no need for Eduardo Bolsonaro to wear the Trump cap. It could create a bad feeling among future American governments when keeping relations with Mr. Bolsonaro,&#8221; said Mr. Dumas.

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Beatriz Farrugia

Beatriz Farrugia has ten years of experience working for international news agencies. She is a former editor at ANSA and holds a post-graduate degree in International Relations from Fundação Getulio Vargas

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