Bolsonaro year 1: Foreign policy

. Dec 18, 2019
foreign policy brazil china Photo: Alan Santos/PR

Brazil’s foreign policy under Jair Bolsonaro has put “America first,” with the president preaching total alignment with the White House. His diplomacy is spearheaded by his Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo, a controversial diplomat who once wrote that Donald Trump could “save the West from its own mess.” Mr. Araújo abides by the teachings of Olavo de Carvalho, a self-proclaimed philosopher who believes that Pepsi Cola is sweetened with the cells of aborted fetuses, and works closely to Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s third-eldest son.

</p> <p><strong>America First?</strong> Mr. Bolsonaro gloats of having a <a href="">close friendship with Mr. Trump</a>, though some would call it an abusive relationship. In bilateral meetings, <a href="">Brazil caved to many of the U.S.&#8217;s demands</a>, such as giving up its status as a developing nation at the World Trade Organization and agreeing to more access for American pork and wheat in Brazil. In return, the U.S. would vouch for Brazil to become a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). But when push came to shove, the <a href="">White House only backed the accession of Argentina and Romania</a>. In December, Mr. Trump announced he would <a href="">raise tariffs on Brazilian steel</a> as punishment for what he considered to be a <a href="">voluntary effort of the Brazilian government to devalue its currency</a>, which was not the case.</p> <p><strong>What about China?</strong> As a candidate, Mr. Bolsonaro didn&#8217;t miss an opportunity to bark at Beijing, denouncing <a href="">massive investments from the Asian giant</a> as threats to Brazil&#8217;s sovereignty. But as president, he adopted a more pragmatic stance on <a href="">Brazil&#8217;s top trading partner</a>, including a visit to Beijing and Shanghai. In November, Mr. Bolsonaro played host to Xi Jinping during the <a href="">11th BRICS Summit</a>, and said <a href="">China is &#8220;part of Brazil&#8217;s future.&#8221;</a></p> <p><strong>Mercosur.</strong> Since election day, Mr. Bolsonaro and his Economy Minister Paulo Guedes have said that Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, <a href="">would not be a priority</a>. In 2019, Brazil threatened to pull out from the group due to the fact that Mercosur has never blossomed into a true free-trade union (which is true). Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s administration has also <a href="">picked fights with leftist leaders in the region</a>, which can hamper much-needed <a href="">cooperation with neighbors</a> in matters such as fighting drug trafficking and environmental issues.</p> <p><strong>Trade.</strong> The Bolsonaro administration oversaw the signing of a <a href="">trade deal between Mercosur and the European Union</a>, one of the biggest in history. The deal helps <a href="">South America&#8217;s agricultural exports</a>, and boosts industrial imports. Following <a href="">massive protests</a> from agricultural producers across Europe, nations such as France and Austria said they wouldn&#8217;t ratify the deal unless Brazil radically changes its environmental policies.</p> <p><strong>Tourism.</strong> Brazil decided to<a href=""> lift visa requirements</a> for foreign tourists from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Japan. The <a href="">government</a> later announced a similar move for Chinese and Indian tourists.

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Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs — specialized in Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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