American influence in Brazil has been massive. Brazilian
president recent trip to Europe was a
way to counterbalance
this influence. At the Progressive Governance Summit in
London, Brazil, Chile
and Argentina announced they
would present a united front at the next WTO meeting.
During a week, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was greeted in Portugal, Spain and England by European leftists
and union leaders, as he visited the continent in an effort to obtain a greater role for Brazil in international affairs. The effort
included 20 speeches, 4 award ceremonies, 10 press conferences, 7 official dinners and lunches, plus numerous parades,
receptions and meetings.
Lula took ministers, governors and businessmen with him as he moved from Portugal to England to Spain. The work
included strengthening old ties in the old world and strengthening Brazil’s new position as a leader of what is hoped will be a
strong South American block.
According to an analysis by the director of the Brazilian Institute of Foreign Relations, Flavio Sombra Saraiva, in his
eighth trip abroad since taking office, Lula is moving forward in pursuing a three-pronged foreign policy strategy.
"This is Brazil’s historical position. Thus, right after going to Washington, Lula went to Europe. Looking for fresh
air, seeking to balance things," explains Saraiva.
American influence in Brazil and the rest of Latin American in the recent past has been massive. The decision to
attempt negotiations with the US through Mercosur (known as the "four plus one" formula) is an example of the Brazilian
strategy of balancing things. "Brazil wants autonomy through a process of compensating interests," says Saraiva.
Another example was at the Progressive Governance Summit in London when Brazil, Chile and Argentina
announced they would present a united front at the World Trade Organization meeting in Mexico in September.
The second part of the Brazilian strategy was probably the most evident during the trip. "Bilateral relations were the
focus of the trip," says Saraiva. Lula gave special emphasis to trade agreements. There was a reason for business leaders to
accompany the president to Europe. It was also not by chance that he was elected the honorary president of the Portuguese
Industrial Association, and honored by the Spanish business community.
Speaking at the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations, Lula extended an invitation: "Come see renewed
growth in Brazil. Come see how we will assist the needy in Brazil. Who will not want to come and invest in our market under
such circumstances?" As a result, Lula and Jose Aznar of Spain signed a biannual plan for bilateral action.
Spain is the biggest European investor in Brazil (US$ 25 billion), behind only the United States in total investments.
Portugal has US $15 billion invested in Brazil. Lula pointed out that compared to those investments, Brazil has only a small
presence in the two countries. He challenged Brazilian businessmen to rise to the occasion. "It is time for our business community
to get up the courage to become multinationals. There is room for Brazilian investments here. They will help strengthen
the bonds of trust that unite us," said Lula.
This concern with bilateral trade relations shows that an attempt is being made to reduce the dependence on
short-term capital, now so important in balancing Brazil’s foreign accounts. The expansion of Brazilian participation in world
markets is seen as an essential part of reducing the country’s vulnerability.
In Portugal, another aspect of bilateral relations was the situation of immigrants in that country. Out of 68,000
Brazilians living in Portugal, 10,000 are illegal aliens who suffer from discrimination and have difficulties in finding work. During
the Lula visit an agreement was signed which will ease that problem for those who get regular jobs and pay taxes.
The final aspect of the three-pronged foreign policy cited by Saraiva is demonstrated by the participation of Lula at
the Progressive Governance Conference in London. At the invitation of Tony Blair, Lula joined 14 other leaders for annual
talks on what has become known as the "Third Way." The Brazilian president got the spotlight at the conference for the
simple reason that he was really the only one there with a concrete proposal for a new model. Following a speech at the London
School of Economics, Lula, said Anthony Giddens, the school director, "could change the world."
The Spanish newspaper, El Pais, went even further, saying Lula could be the harbinger of the Fourth Way. Lula
answered that he was not concerned with the first, second, third or whatever way. But only with resolving problems. Such as
getting Brazil growing again.
According to Saraiva, Lula’s position, and that of his government, is slightly to the left of Progressive Governance in
that he seeks solutions for grave social problems without a rupture of institutions which sustain the capitalist system.
In The Guardian of July 12, Lula was quoted as defining his political party as socialist and leftist with an internal
Lula seems to have taken up the idea of making Brazil’s position really universal, something abandoned by the
Cardoso administration. "That consists of looking everywhere, simultaneously, at all parts of the planet. A more pluralist vision
of government," explains Saraiva. That is one explanation for the special attention Brazil is giving to Latin America and
Africa, he concludes.
Strengthening Mercosur is one of Brazil’s grand projects. At stake are negotiations with the US and the EU
involving free trade. South American infrastructure is the priority. Communications and transportation must be improved. A
Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) meeting is scheduled for August to examine projects for the region.
In the attempt to balance things, Lula created some controversy when he criticized the absence of the US at the
Progressive Governance Conference. He declared: "They (the US) think of themselves first, second and third." According to
minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, Lula was saying that "the US defends it own interests and that we need to follow
their example, that is all."
This article was released by Agência Brasil (AB), the official press service of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at
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