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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="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/03/20/takes-bolsonaro-trump-meeting/">close friendship with Mr. Trump</a>, though some would call it an abusive relationship. In bilateral meetings, <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/daily-briefing/2019/03/20/bolsonaro-gives-trump-far-more-than-he-receives/">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="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/daily-briefing/2019/10/11/white-house-ignores-oecd-bid-brazil/">White House only backed the accession of Argentina and Romania</a>. In December, Mr. Trump announced he would <a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/12/02/trump-come-after-brazil-steel-producers-expect/">raise tariffs on Brazilian steel</a> as punishment for what he considered to be a <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/daily-briefing/2019/12/03/donald-trump-targeting-brazil-china-trade-war-argentina/">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="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/11/19/china-investing-brazilian-oil-no-one-cnooc-cnodc/">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="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/04/04/china-brazil-biggest-trade-partner/">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="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/11/13/ten-years-brics-looks-more-like-china-and-co/">11th BRICS Summit</a>, and said <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/daily-briefing/2019/11/14/trade-deal-between-brazil-china-possible/">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="https://brazilian.report/opinion/2019/07/15/brazil-new-era-of-trade-deal/">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="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/11/08/brazil-endorses-cuba-embargo-cozying-up-us-donald-trump/">picked fights with leftist leaders in the region</a>, which can hamper much-needed <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/12/10/alberto-fernandez-president-argentina-brazil-trade-mercosur/">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="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/weekly-report/2019/06/29/mercosur-eu-trade-deal-economic-pragmatism/">trade deal between Mercosur and the European Union</a>, one of the biggest in history. The deal helps <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/weekly-report/2019/07/20/closer-look-mercosur-eu-trade-deal/">South America&#8217;s agricultural exports</a>, and boosts industrial imports. Following <a href="https://brazilian.report/newsletters/daily-briefing/2019/09/19/austria-veto-eu-trade-agreement-mercosur/">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="https://brazilian.report/power/2019/05/21/brazil-plan-tourism/"> lift visa requirements</a> for foreign tourists from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Japan. The <a href="https://epocanegocios.globo.com/Brasil/noticia/2019/12/epoca-negocios-visto-gold-brasileiro-tem-baixa-procura.html">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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