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Tuesday, January 31, 2023
HomeWorldOpinion - Josep Borrell: Revitalizing the European Union's partnership with Brazil

Opinion – Josep Borrell: Revitalizing the European Union’s partnership with Brazil

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On January 1, 2023, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) was sworn in as President of Brazil. I was unable to attend the inauguration ceremony, but I send my best wishes for your third term as leader of one of the greatest countries in the world.

Last October, more than 124 million Brazilians went to the polls. The winner of these elections, in difficult and polarizing circumstances, was Brazilian democracy. Now President Lula is sending a clear message to the world: Brazil is back.

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He intends to heal society’s wounds, defend democracy, fight inequality and boost the economy, while fighting climate change and deforestation. After a period of isolation and disengagement, the new administration returns to the international scene to act as a committed global and multilateral player.

These commitments were very positively received by the Europeans. In the current geopolitical context, characterized by threats against the rules-based international order and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the world needs Brazil. With its powerful diplomacy, the country can make a difference, and, acting together, the European Union (EU) and Brazil can be a force for good in the world.

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Together, the EU and Brazil account for almost a fifth of the world’s GDP. The EU is Brazil’s biggest investor and second trading partner. But our economic relationships have not lived up to their full potential. We need to revitalize our strategic partnership. Other countries, such as China in particular, are expanding their role as a trading partner and investor in Brazil and Latin America.

One clear area where we must join forces is the fight against climate change. Brazil can become a green superpower by driving global efforts to protect the planet.

During President Lula’s previous terms, the rate of deforestation has decreased significantly. For the future, robust traceability systems can restore trust in our bilateral value chains. These efforts must go hand in hand with social justice and the fight against inequality: environmental policies must be accompanied by strong measures for a fairer and more inclusive economy. That way, we don’t run the risk of leaving vulnerable communities behind.

Brazil is also already a giant in the field of renewable energies, but we can also develop our cooperation in this area, including the green hydrogen sector.

The EU is also ready to step up cooperation on the digital transition. We share the same understanding of the importance of a human-centered digital transformation and its enormous potential to drive development, create jobs and promote social inclusion. After installing the Bella submarine cable to connect our two continents, we plan to launch a digital alliance between the EU and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean in the coming months.

I have no doubt that President Lula’s government will help return Brazil to a path of sustainable growth, which provides an opportunity to expand our economic ties. Within the scope of the Global Gateway strategy, we are ready to increase EU investments in Brazil in green, digital and fair transitions.

In addition, we must join efforts in areas such as health and education, research and innovation, human rights and security, including the fight against illegal mining and the protection of indigenous peoples. In all these areas we have enormous potential for cooperation — not just between states, but also between regional and local authorities, between the private sector and between our societies.

Finally, it is essential that we make decisive progress on the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement. The agreement would seal a strategic alliance between the two regions, which rank as the most closely aligned in the world in terms of interests and values. On both sides of the Atlantic, we seek to improve our economic resilience by reducing excessive dependencies.

However, we both know that autonomy does not mean isolation. On the contrary, it requires more cooperation with reliable economic and political partners. Mercosur countries strive to develop their own productive capacity, adding value to natural resources through innovation and technology, while adhering to high social and environmental standards. We are ready to accompany Brazil and the other Mercosur countries on this path.

Bringing together two of the world’s largest trading blocs —with a combined population of over 700 million people—, the EU-Mercosur Agreement would generate real opportunities for companies on both sides, supporting the creation of high-quality jobs in Europe and Latin America.

Recognizing an economic asymmetry in our situations, the agreement specifies that trade would be progressively opened, thus giving the relevant sectors time to modernize and become competitive. A common commitment to fighting climate change and stronger environmental policies brings us closer to overcoming remaining concerns.

The year 2023 should also mark the revitalization of cooperation between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean through the EU-CELAC summit. Our common agenda is clear: to contain geopolitical tensions, succeed in digital, green and fair global transitions and build the multilateral order of the future, we need to deepen EU-Brazil cooperation and finalize the EU-Mercosur agreement.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and start working together.

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