Latin America

Why BRICS is important to Brazil

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Original article can be found here

Brazil has a prominent role to play in the global governance architecture. The country has sustained structural economic growth on the back of favourable demographic drivers, growing middle class consumption and broad scale socio-economic transformation. As a result, the business environment in the country has steadily improved; and the number of people living in extreme poverty have halved over the last decade. It is time for the country to place commensurate emphasis on consolidating its position as a regional leader; and as a key stakeholder on the global governance high table. BRICS provides the perfect platform to marry the dual imperatives.

                       

HOT TOPICS: BRICS

Brazil boasts of one of the world’s largest domestic markets and a sophisticated business environment. It ranks 53rd on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (2001-12), and is ahead of the rest of the BRICS nations in the availability of financial services among other key indicators of financial market penetration. Brazil’s upwardly mobile middle class and its elite have inexorably embraced the liberal globalisation framework, promoted by the developed world. Consequently, since the 1990’s they have shown a greater willingness to engage with the international system, and accept transnational regulations and norms.

As a willing signatory to international norms, ranging from those around mitigation of climate change to preventing nuclear proliferation, Brazil has often broken its own historical typecast of being defensive. What superficially seems to represent a systemic re-prioritisation – requires deeper investigation. According to the Economist’s Economic Intelligence Unit, domestic savings rates in the country are below 20 percent. Mid-sized industries still largely rely on external markets for raising money and channelling investments. By default, international perception about the Brazilian economy is an important component of national strategy. Concomitantly, the Latin American identity is one that successive governments have strived to shed.

Being part of the BRICS grouping has helped Brazil to leverage its ‘emerging market’ identity and de-hyphenate from its Latin American identity (which had its own convoluted dynamics in any case). This is evident both in the global economic and political spheres. BRICS has provided Brazil with a platform to engage with the international system more progressively. It can now navigate the international rules based architecture, with greater bargaining power and seek greater representation in institutions of global economic and political governance. Using the BRICS identity, Brazil no longer has to drive a wedge between its development and growth imperatives. It can shield its poor from international regulations, without fear of its ‘investment worthiness’ being diluted. It can participate at the global high table, while simultaneously catering to nuanced regional imperatives.

The recent death of Hugo Chavez was termed “an irreparable loss” by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. This serves as an example of the ideological flexibility, which the country employs to engage with a neighbourhood that is strictly divided on the Venezuelan President’s legacy. Indeed fine balancing tactics are not new to Brazilian foreign policy, also termed ‘a study in ambivalence’. The pluralistic construct of BRICS fits perfectly with Brazil’s strategic outlook on its neighbourhood and the world. Brazil has taken on more regional commitments over the same twenty year period during which it has enhanced its engagements with the international system. This is evidenced from increased participation in regional working group meetings, official summits and informal gatherings by the government.

There are numerous accounts of Brazil’s deployment of regional priorities as a bargain chip. Through MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market), Brazil has been able to successfully negotiate trade agreements in favour of its national interests. It is a pivotal founder member of the five-member trading bloc, which recently included Venezuela within its fold. In the on-going negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union (EU), Brazil has pulled out all the stops, shielding its local industries from cheaper foreign made imports; with support from other members including Argentina. Similarly, common interests rather than common ideologies dictate the BRICS agenda. Brazil’s membership of the grouping is in complete consonance with its regional and global strategic imperatives.

Aside from the adaptive flexibility that the informal BRICS grouping offers, it allows Brazil great latitude in bringing specific agendas around innovation, intellectual property rights and green growth at its core. Brazil is home to nearly half of the world’s biodiversity; the overarching sustainable development agenda is not surprisingly a national priority. Similarly, Brazil has the opportunity to use mechanisms such as the BRICS Exchange Alliance for attracting investments. While the current framework enables investors to trade in cross-listed futures indices, if there is political will, the mechanism could eventually encompass various products with different underlying assets including equities. Another relevant sector specific example is commercial aerospace cooperation, where Brazil has unmatched expertise within the grouping.

There are in fact multiple opportunities for Brazil within BRICS, not limited to the economic sphere. In many ways, the grouping brings Brazil from the left corner of the world map to the centre, where the geopolitical theatre is most active; in Asia and the Indo – Pacific. However there are two oddities in the Brazilian agenda which would require circumnavigation if Brazil is to be brought to the heart of the geopolitical discourse. The first is to moderate its insistence on pursuing ‘euro-styled’ agendas such as interventionist doctrine ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P), with an ambiguously defined alternative ‘responsibility while protecting’. Sovereignty matters to other BRICS and there is some time before supra-national initiatives would pass muster. And the second is to shed its reluctance on the agenda for creation of a BRICS led Development Bank. In this instance Brazil, with its considerable Development Bank experience, can help shape a credible institute that will empower billions south of the equator.

Vivan Sharan is Associate Fellow and Samir Saran is Vice President at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi.

Obama 2.0: Who will crash the party?

by Samir Saran and Dr. John C. Hulsman
1st of December 2012
Please find here the link to the original article

Second term presidencies, like second marriages, can be seen as the triumph of hope over experience. George W. Bush met with calamity in Iraq, Bill Clinton was impeached over the Lewinsky scandal, Ronald Reagan suffered through Iran-Contra, Richard Nixon perpetrated Watergate and resigned, and LBJ was engulfed and then devoured by the Vietnam War. Given this doleful record, what can realistically be hoped for in a second Obama term? This time around, will chronically dysfunctional West Asia be a slow bleed that will drain the momentum of the new presidency?

Two major over-arching priorities immediately head the to-do list of President Obama; the first a great danger, while the second presents almost unparalleled political opportunity. The fiscal cliff–and insane joint suicide pact agreed to by the outgoing Congress-promises automatic tax increases and spending cuts totaling $600 billion coming to pass on January 1, 2013. The only way to avoid this contraction to the American economy, which it is estimated would amount to a full 4% of American GDP, thereby casting a feebly recovering American back into recession, would be for the Republican House and the President to reach a broader budget deal amounting to around $1.2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years. So, at least on paper, it is hard choices quickly arrived at or…Armageddon.

Given the stakes (and both parties desire to avoid the wrath of the American people at their persistent inability to behave as grown-ups) it is still more than even money that a patched-up compromise will be reached, a temporary deal which kicks the fiscal can down the road, without actually solving America’s long-term deficit and debt crisis. However, failure to reach such a deal (and it is important not to underestimate how politically divided Washington has become) would practically doom the president’s second term from the start.

Obama’s tremendous opportunity, also best done quickly while the Republican Party is still reeling from its electoral defeat, is to, in terms of policy, lock in the gains made by the creation of his new and seemingly enduring Democratic majority. The President’s winning political coalition for the past two presidential election cycles has led to nothing less than the rejuvenation of the Democratic Party itself. Women, African-Americans, the Professional Classes, the Young, and Hispanics are the basis of the evolving power of the Democrats, who have carried the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests.

Locking in Hispanics, the fastest growing segment of the American electorate, is a particularly tempting prize. Now comprising a full 10% of the voting public, Hispanics gave the president 71% of their votes this November; the main reason for this is the administration’s efforts to offer amnesty and an ultimate path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented workers now living in America, and the Republicans’ suicidal desire to punish both them and their children.

In his immediate post-election remarks, the president gave the game away by stressing the need for immigration reform, truly a win-win proposition if ever there was one in politics. If Republicans balk at reaching a compromise over immigration, they will have lost the chance to win over the fastest growing segment of the American electorate for at least the next generation. If they go along with Obama’s proposals, there will be civil war in the GOP, and President Obama will get the lion’s share of the credit anyway. Look for moves to introduce such a policy very early in 2013.

If this is what the White House will do, the great White Whale of the next four years is a simple fiscal question: Can America arrest its trajectory of rather steep decline and enact a Bowles-Simpson style compromise that both raises taxes (as the Democrats dream about) while engaging in entitlement reform of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (the Republican’s fondest wish).

In the Bowles-Simpson plan–a bipartisan compromise reached by the president’s own appointed committee in the latter days of his first term-there is a durable blueprint to do this. There would be three dollars in spending cuts for every dollar in tax increases, entitlements would be means tested, and benefits would be cut and doled out slightly later in life, taxes would be simplified, with loopholes and deductions would be curtailed. Such a grand plan would stabilize the American debt rate at around 60% of GDP, thus preserving American economic power for the next generation.

There are two fundamental problems in reaching for the Bowles-Simpson Holy Grail. The first is that it presumes that people in both parties are less ideological than they currently are. It is not just the right-wing Tea Party that is the problem here; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her left-wing followers have also shown no sign of being able to make the significant compromises that would be necessary to make this whole process work. Without the left agreeing to entitlement reform and the right agreeing to tax rises, the deal will never be done. It is an open question as to whether this level of compromise is now possible in a Washington more ideologically divided than at any time in memory.

The final problem in nailing down this ambitious domestic agenda is that it assumes the world will simply not intrude while America tries to sort itself out. History simply does not work like this. While it is highly unlikely there will be simultaneous: War with Iran, tensions between China and Japan over the Senkakus, the euro-crisis going septic, and Syria’s civil war leading to regional instability or even regional war in the Middle East, there is a very good chance that some of this happens. Any foreign distractions could well doom the domestic-only focus the president is banking on.

Given this highly ambitious domestic agenda, Obama the second time around is likely to disappoint both the Wilsonian liberals who seek American intervention in troubled regions around the world to promote liberty and protect human rights (think Libya) and the neoconservative hawks who seek greater U.S. commitment to lead the 21st century world through the preponderance and use of its military might (think Iraq). If the first term is any indication, U.S. foreign policy will to continue to develop in a cautious, limited, pragmatic, yet largely reactive manner. There will be few American efforts to order the new multipolar world, or respond proactively to much of anything.

And therein lies the danger. Reactive agendas may result in hasty interventions and unintended outcomes. For one thing, the hurriedly brokered ceasefire between the Hamas and Israel is one that will surely need a revisit sooner rather than later. And this time around who (if anyone) will script the agenda remains the million-dollar question.

Australian’s Raleigh Times covers ORF’s Latin America event, 2011

 

 

 

August 2, 2011
Link to original website

Participating in an interaction at Observer Research Foundation, envoys from 17 countries from Latin America said their countries are keen to strengthen economic relations with India. “We want better, mutually beneficial relations with India. We have got lots of natural resources, especially oil and other energy resources. But we don’t want to be just provider of resources. We want you to cooperate in our development also,” said Columbian Ambassador Juan Alfredo Pinto Saavedra.

Saavedra, the coordinator of the group of Ambassadors of the Latin American countries, said the US and the Europe used resources from their countries for their development, but did not help them in the development.  “While they used our resources, we remained poor,” he said. He wanted India and China to be different in their approach to Latin American countries.

Besides the Columbian Ambassador, Ambassadors from Paraguay, Uruguay, Panama, Costo Rica, Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Dominican Republic attended the interaction. The other countries were represented by high level diplomats like Deputy Chief the Missions and Charge d’ Affaires. The Ambassadors were given a presentation on the ORF Report on India’s non-traditional security threats, titled “Navigating the Near” by Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation.  This study was done by ORF for the Integrated Defence Staff, the Ministry of Defence.

Chairing the meeting, M. Rasgotra, a former Foreign Secretary and now President of the ORF Centre for International Relations, said Latin American countries enjoyed good sentiments in India. He said India would be keen to have mutually beneficial cooperation with them.

Former Foreign Secretary K. Raghunath and ORF Director Sunjoy Joshi also took part in the meeting.

TruthDive.com covers ORF’s Latin America event, August 2011

August 2, 2011, New Delhi
Link to original website
Envoys of Latin American countries today sought mutually beneficial cooperation with India. Participating in an interaction at Observer Research Foundation, envoys from 17 countries from Latin America said their countries are keen to strengthen economic relations with India. “We want better, mutually beneficial relations with India. We have got lots of natural resources, especially oil and other energy resources. But we don’t want to be just provider of resources. We want you to cooperate in our development also,” said Columbian Ambassador Juan Alfredo Pinto Saavedra.

Saavedra, the coordinator of the group of Ambassadors of the Latin American countries, said the US and the Europe used resources from their countries for their development, but did not help them in the development. “While they used our resources, we remained poor,” he said. He wanted India and China to be different in their approach to Latin American countries.

Besides the Columbian Ambassador, Ambassadors from Paraguay, Uruguay, Panama, Costo Rica, Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Dominican Republic attended the interaction. The other countries were represented by high level diplomats like Deputy Chief the Missions and Charge d’ Affaires. The Ambassadors were given a presentation on the ORF Report on India’s non-traditional security threats, titled “Navigating the Near” by Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation.

This study was done by ORF for the Integrated Defence Staff, the Ministry of Defence. Chairing the meeting, M. Rasgotra, a former Foreign Secretary and now President of the ORF Centre for International Relations, said Latin American countries enjoyed good sentiments in India. He said India would be keen to have mutually beneficial cooperation with them.

Former Foreign Secretary K. Raghunath and ORF Director Sunjoy Joshi also took part in the meeting.

NewKerala.com covers ORF report launch on non-traditional security

Latin American countries keen to strengthen relations with India 
April 16, 2011
Link to website  

Participating in an interaction at Observer Research Foundation, envoys from 17 countries from Latin America said their countries are keen to strengthen economic relations with India. “We want better, mutually beneficial relations with India. We have got lots of natural resources, especially oil and other energy resources. But we don’t want to be just provider of resources. We want you to cooperate in our development also,” said Columbian Ambassador Juan Alfredo Pinto Saavedra.

Saavedra, the coordinator of the group of Ambassadors of the Latin American countries, said the US and the Europe used resources from their countries for their development, but did not help them in the development. “While they used our resources, we remained poor,” he said. He wanted India and China to be different in their approach to Latin American countries.

Besides the Columbian Ambassador, Ambassadors from Paraguay, Uruguay, Panama, Costo Rica, Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Dominican Republic attended the interaction. The other countries were represented by high level diplomats like Deputy Chief the Missions and Charge d’ Affaires.

The Ambassadors were given a presentation on the ORF Report on India’s non-traditional security threats, titled “Navigating the Near” by Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation. This study was done by ORF for the Integrated Defence Staff, the Ministry of Defence.

Chairing the meeting, M. Rasgotra, a former Foreign Secretary and now President of the ORF Centre for International Relations, said Latin American countries enjoyed good sentiments in India. He said India would be keen to have mutually beneficial cooperation with them. Former Foreign Secretary K. Raghunath and ORF Director Sunjoy Joshi also took part in the meeting.