FM changes trade agreements policy

18 de maio de 2016

São Paulo – Senator José Serra (affiliated with the São Paulo chapter of party PSDB) took office as the Brazilian minister of Foreign Relations under the administration of interim president Michel Temer. During his inauguration ceremony this Wednesday (18th) at the Brazilian Foreign Ministry seat Itamaraty, in Brasília, Serra announced a shift in Brazilian foreign policy, including talks for international trade agreements.

“Brazil will no longer restrict its freedom and the breadth of its initiatives for an exclusive, paralyzing adhesion to multilateral efforts within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO), as was the case since the past decade, to the detriment of the country’s own interests,” the new foreign minister said.

He conceded that negotiations under the WTO are the only ones that can correct the “relevant systemic distortions” in global trade, particularly when it comes to agriculture, but noted that so far, the process has not advanced “with the necessary speed and relevance,” and that for as long as Brazil “clings” to this multilateral effort, it will remain a bystander as “bilateral free-trade agreements multiply.”

“The multilateralism that hasn’t come to pass has detracted from the bilateralism that thrived around the world,” Serra asserted. He said the government will strive to recover the “lost opportunities” in bilateral treaties, and that the size of the Brazilian market must be used as leverage for achieving reciprocity and equilibrium in international agreements.

Ever since the beginning of the so-called Doha Round, in 2001, Brazilian foreign policy has tended toward multilateral initiatives in trade agreement talks. Even outside the scope of the WTO, Brazil only engages in discussions for agreements with other countries and blocs in tandem with its Mercosur partners Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Regarding the South American bloc, Serra spoke of strengthening and revitalizing the group, but did not provide any details as to how. He made it clear, however, that “problems need correcting,” including free-trade among the member countries themselves, which remains “less than satisfactory.” He also championed the building of bridges with the Transpacific Alliance, which comprises countries in the Americas, Asia, and Oceania.

The minister named the furthering of ties with traditional Brazilian partners a priority, including the United States, Europe, Japan, Argentina, and Mexico, as well as Asian nations, especially China.


Regarding Africa, Serra remarked that relations cannot be built solely on the basis of “fraternal ties from the past” or cultural similarities, they must contemplate “partnerships for the present and the future.” “Unlike what we have been led to believe, modern Africa calls not for compassion, but for an effective exchange in economy, technology and investment,” he declared.

He added that solidarity with [developing] Southern countries will continue to be an “essential guideline” of Brazilian diplomacy. “But we mean the correct South-South strategy, not the one that was once put into effect for advertising purposes, scarce economic benefits and major diplomatic investments”, he said.

Serra also said that he will search for opportunities offered by interregional forums such as the Brics and the ones formed by South America with Africa and the Arab countries.

The speech is in contrast with some aspects of the foreign policy adopted during the governments of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and of suspended president Dilma Rousseff, whose priorities were multilateralism, the South-South cooperation, the interregional forums, closer ties with developing Africa, Middle East and Asia.

In all, Serra listed ten guidelines to his term. Besides the aforementioned ones, he said that Brazil’s diplomacy “will again reflect the legitimate interests of the Brazilian society and its economy” and that it will “no longer cater to the conveniences and ideological preferences of a political party and its allies abroad”; that it will be alert in defense of democracy, liberties and human rights in any country and political regime, as established in international treaties and as per the principle of non-interference in the domestic issues of other nations; that it will strive for its “rightful” leadership role on environment issues; that its actions at the UN and in other international forums will aim for peaceful, negotiated solutions to conflicts; and that it will increase dialogue with the productive sector.

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum and Sérgio Kakitani