October 8, 2008

NOTHING BECAME THEM SO MUCH AS BECOMING LIKE US:

Emergence on Global Stage Leaves Brazilians Divided: Brazil's very recent emergence on the global stage has fueled debate in the country between those advocating adaptation to international norms and those who view Brazil's real interests as conflicting with the current world order. (Maria Regina Soares de Lima, 10/08/08, Der Spiegel))

It is clearly visible that Brazil is increasingly recognized as a major player in the international arena. It is included among the "outreach five countries" along with China, India, Mexico, and South Africa, which participate in "constructive engagement" with the G-8. Engagement also seems to be the goal of the European Union, which has established strategic partnerships with countries such as South Africa, Brazil and India. It is interesting that the increased attention given to Brazil is not necessarily linked to military capacity, but rather to Brazil's ever greater importance in the global economy.

This rising importance has been triggered by two major changes in the international environment. The first is economic globalization and the spread of capitalism. Many developing countries abandoned their previous economic models and took to capitalism after the end of the Cold War. As a result, many of these peripheral countries, such as Brazil, became strongly integrated into the international economy through their participation in global chains of production. This has led to a new intermediate layer of emerging economies such as the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and the Large Peripheral Countries. Some of these developing countries evolved their own forms of state-coordinated capitalism through which governments perform not only the regulatory role of the state, but also foster policies for social inclusion, and more assertive foreign policies. A consequence of this has been the questioning of the traditional models of economic growth and development. The space available for countries such as Brazil to showcase their own paths of development in the international arena has increased.

The second major change in the international environment that had a positive impact on Brazil was the demise of authoritarian governments and the successful transitions to democracy in Latin America and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Latin America's position under US influence during the Cold War had been detrimental for democracy in the region. Today, Cold War-style military interventions are no longer possible. In this new context progressive governments have not only been elected but have also been able to carry out their terms.

It was in this new international context that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's government was elected to power in 2002. As Brazil has become more integrated into the global economy, its negotiating positions have gradually become more assertive -- both in the domain of trade and in the political forums of the United Nations. In the future, Brazil might benefit further from the rising importance of energy and food production in global geopolitics. It is already a large producer of bio-fuels. If the expected discovery of oil off the Brazilian coast is confirmed, Brazil will also play a major role in the production of conventional fuels. In food production, Brazil stands out not only as a competitive agricultural and mineral commodities exporter but also as an important agricultural producer. Naturally, the potential benefits of these strengths will also depend on the policies followed by the Brazilian government.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 8, 2008 7:44 AM
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