Climate protagonism is the way for Brazil to regain relevance, says professor


The government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) will have some important opportunities to regain a prominent place for Brazil in international politics. After four years of Jair Bolsonaro (PL), when many partners abroad put a “foot on the brake” in relations with the country, the global context is challenging, but it may allow Brazil to regain a prestigious position. The main one, according to professor of international relations Antonio Carlos Lessa, is environmental diplomacy.

“If Brazil succeeds in structuring its foreign policy based on its leading role in the environmental agenda, we have a good way to start. It won’t be difficult to build a credible image again”, said Lessa to the National Interest.

Professor at the University of Brasilia, currently doing research in the US, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he claims that the current president has done the work of a “useful idiot” in foreign policy.

“Some agendas that are particularly costly, which had high effective costs, were worked on in such a clumsy way that, in the end, it reduced the cost of operation for the new government”, he said, citing the country’s candidacy to the OECD as an example.

THE Bolsonaro government’s foreign policy has been heavily criticized over four years. What impact could this break with the Itamaraty traditions brought by him have on diplomacy Brazilian? It is necessary to think about these impacts in different layers. There is a superficial one, in which the damage it causes is also more superficial. It’s like a scratch on a well-polished table, where you do a treatment and recover without difficulty. It’s not a deep scar. We saw this, for example, in that capacity almost immediately after the election of having a massive adhesion of a good part of the international community saluting Lula’s victory.

In this dimension, Brazil’s return to interesting positions on the international scene will not be difficult. These are questions that can be easily resumed; as much as there are no vacant spaces in international politics, perhaps Brazil traditionally has attributes that facilitate this repositioning.

In the dimension of more permanent external damage, what is important is that traditional image of Brazil as a credible partner. Bolsonaro’s Brazil so quickly reversed important commitments in which the country appeared as a relevant guarantor, and this was so easy to do in a change of government, that the big question is that no one guarantees that this will not happen again, in another alternation violent the way we had with Bolsonaro.

This was so easily dismantled that it leaves an important mark, creating distrust.

There has been some significant progress in this period? From the first moment, Bolsonaro did the work of a useful idiot. Some agendas that are particularly costly have been worked on in such a clumsy way that, in the end, it lowers the operating cost for the new government.

For example, we had reached an impasse in the regional arrangement, especially around the relevance and functioning of Unasur. At the same time there is the stagnation of Mercosur, of the sub-regional dimension. In this context, Bolsonaro’s ravings, the dismantling of Unasur, mean that Brazil has to think of a different arrangement, which starts from the consensus between neighbors to give it effectiveness.

Bolsonaro provided a service on account of the effective costs of Brazil’s candidacy for the OECD and preparation for joining the group. This is a point that the left has historically resisted due to the controls and commitments imposed by the OECD on macroeconomic management, public policy management. This is a notorious case in foreign policy where Bolsonaro does dirty work, which can be useful. There is no doubt that joining the OECD will do Brazil good, from the point of view of attracting investments in fundraising, transparency, fighting corruption and managing public policies.

Similarly, the rapid approval of the Mercosur agreement with the European Union, even though the most concrete advances have taken place in the government [Michel] To fear [MDB]🇧🇷 But the conclusion of the agreement is one of those tasks that Lula would have a high cost to process. There is something positive there, which even offers a bridge for him to build and rebuild the international agenda.

Mr. says that, but first mentioned a possible loss of credibility for Brazil. The fact that Lula returns to power with a speech and actions that lead to the attempt to better control Brazil’s international position may be able to advance these projects that can help the country? It is true that there has been a change and that illegalities have been empowered by the current government, but the country has a credential that is easily recoverable. And the foreign policy agenda will be structured around this, because what is actually being read is the urgency of the environmental agenda, the occurrence of dramatic climate emergencies. And if Brazil manages to structure its foreign policy based on its role in the environmental agenda, we have a good way to start.

It won’t be difficult to build a believable image again. Protagonism in the climate agenda is the only possibility for Brazil to quickly acquire international relevance.

His research in the US deals with the country’s relationship with Brazil. This relationship has changed radically in recent years, first with Bolsonaro’s total alignment with Trump, then with Biden’s distancing. How do you assess this situation in the context of Lula’s return to power? The easiest command to reactivate is that of pragmatism, which historically informs the management of bilateral relations, now tempered by different historical circumstances. The return of a pragmatic command is extremely important, including as key to the management of other issues that are of interest to Brazil and the US, such as the stability of Latin America and the question of Venezuela.

An extremely important aspect is that under Lula’s governments, China was an emerging power, and now it is a superpower. And the rivalry between China and the US, especially in the region, is going to be very important. We have the opportunity to test a rational foreign policy management, reinstalling the pragmatic command in the treatment of relations with Washington, and to evaluate the effects of this rivalry in a pragmatic way too, so that Brazil can gain from it. Think creatively about what is possible to extract from concrete gains with this growing rivalry that has taken hold in Latin America.

Lula gets along very well and has this prospect of restoring relations with China, but he also has this perspective of restoring relations with the US. We will have the best of both worlds there to negotiate a balanced position that will lead to the growth of Brazil’s international profile.

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