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Brazil Is Not As Selfless As It Wants You to Believe

Brazil's Roberto AzevedoThe selection of Ambassador Roberto Azevêdo as Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has once again put Brazilian diplomacy on the front pages of the world’s newspapers. While without a doubt superbly prepared and qualified for this new post, Azevêdo’s appointment also owes much to Brazil’s international reputation as a critical bridge between old and new powers. But is this really the case?

New research by the Australian National University’s Dr. Sean W. Burges published in the London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs’ journal International Affairs suggests that Brazil is not quite the international good citizen and selfless consensus builder it seems.

As Burges notes: “Brazil is blessed with enormously clever and capable diplomats who consistently advance their own country’s national interest while making others think they are acting for the global good.”

The point the paper makes is that Brazil is able to do this partly because it is trying to gain a greater voice in international affairs, not tear the global governance system down:

“The current international system is quite a comfortable place for Brazil. What Brazil wants is to have more of a say about where the world is going and how it is going to be run in the future.”

Burges argues that Brazil has constructed a position for itself as a bridge between the developed and developing world. The result is a very cost-effective tactic for making Brazil a fixture at the major global governance decision-making tables such as the WTO and the G20.

“Although Brazilian diplomats are far from cheap to train and deploy, the overall budget of the foreign ministry remains a tiny proportion of Brazil’s federal budget, let alone its national GDP.”

To explain how this works, Burges looks at three distinct areas of Brazilian foreign policy. He first looks at how strengthened relations with South America and Africa are used to make Brazil a bridging point between the developing and developed world.

Brazilian strategies in the WTO are covered in the next section, which charts the rise of Brazil as the major actor in global trade talks, culminating in Azevêdo’s recent appointment. The final section looks at Brazil’s efforts to control events in the United Nations and the inter-American system to advance its leadership ambitions.

Burges concludes the study with some observations for policy makers seeking to understand how to deal with the emerging power Brazil: “Assumptions about how Brazil will react to invitations to participate in international policy discussions need to be rethought. Brazil comes to the table with impressive diplomatic capacity and carefully crafted policy proposals behind which a broad base of support has often been marshaled.”

The good news that Burges leaves for OECD-country diplomats is one of hope: “Brazil’s core interests and ambitions align remarkably well with those of other major powers. Pursuit of these interests has been undertaken in a manner that has yet to raise hackles in the South.”

This, Burges concludes, is probably a good thing and “makes Brazil a potentially valuable partner for the continued management of regional and global issues.”

Dr. Sean W Burges is a Senior Associate of the Australian National Center for Latin American Studies at the Australian National University. He is also a non-Resident Senior Research Fellow of the Washington, DC-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

His past publications include the book Brazilian Foreign Policy After the Cold War (University Press of Florida, 2009), over twenty academic journal articles and book chapters on inter-American affairs, and dozens of Op-Eds on Latin American foreign policy and development.

The paper is published as part of an issue of the journal focusing on rising powers in the world order. For an electronic copy of the paper, contact Dr Burges at sean.burges@anu.edu.au.

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  • Show Comments (14)

  • David Arana

    L.C. The First American
    Not too difficult for people not to identify with the Basques. At any rate I don’t think that the title “First American” is taken yet, so I wish that illustrious personage all of the best.

  • João da Silva

    David Arana
    Dear Mr.Arana,

    [quote]Sorry Mr. da Silva, we are not related except, possibly in a distant Basque past. [/quote]

    L.C claims he is the “First American” and thus has no connection with your Basque past.;-)

    I am not sure if you know BrazzilMag has a “Mother Magazine” and the link is below:

    [url]https://www.brazzil.com/[/url]

    That mag is more interesting and the commentators are pretty wild and unruly.:D

  • David Arana

    Dr. L.C.
    Sorry Mr. da Silva, we are not related except, possibly in a distant Basque past.
    Egun ona izan (Have a nice day)

  • João da Silva

    David Arana
    [quote] Dear newsroom. Can you advise of any country that is selfless? Are you running out of material? Can I help?
    [/quote]

    Excuse me, Mr.Arana. By any chance, are you related to my good friend and fellow scholar Dr.L.C.?;-):D;-)

  • David Arana

    Selfless?
    Dear newsroom. Can you advise of any country that is selfless? Are you running out of material? Can I help?

  • [quote]Really? Thanks for reviling such secret information! perfectessaywriter com [/quote]

    Toy, mah boy. You asketh and we replyth

  • Toy

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  • João da Silva

    David Arana
    [quote]I also agree that Brazil’s diplomats are pretty astute. But they are still viewed with a tongue in cheek because they are usually assigned their positions by politicians,[/quote]

    Mr.Arana, the political masters of almost [i][b]all [/b][/i]the countries interfere in the work of their Diplomats and it is not just restricted only to Brasil. However, our [i][b]career[/b][/i] diplomats still are being listened to by the politicos, because they underwent a tough selection process before being admitted to the “Instituto Rio Branco” and are well trained. So far we have had career diplomats as ministers, though as you implied rightly, for how long nobody knows.

    [quote] Be well Mr. da Silva.[/quote]

    Thank you sir. You too take care and keep well.

    🙂

  • David Arana

    Diplomats
    I also agree that Brazil’s diplomats are pretty astute. But they are still viewed with a tongue in cheek because they are usually assigned their positions by politicians, who are viewed through less appreciative eyes.

    Ok, lets see where our diplomats and politicians take us. Onward, adelante. Be well Mr. da Silva.

  • João da Silva

    [quote] I am not so sure that Brazil is clever enough to mount a global strategy, not yet at least.[/quote]

    I am sure we are capable of “mounting” a global strategy, because our [i][b]career[/b][/i] diplomats still have their heads in the right place.

    [quote]the newsroom article uses Dr. Burges’ article to slam Brazil just as Sara is of slamming Joao da Silva. [/quote]

    I stand by my earlier opinion on Burghes’ article. As for Sara slamming me, I don’t really care. She must be a “Lavatory Assistant” in one of the “big” shopping malls somewhere in Europe. Or maybe in NYC?
    :-);-):D;-)

  • NM

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  • David Arana

    Strategies, responsibilities
    Indeed we may be blessed with clever diplomats but to offset the equation we are equally plagued by a corrupt system. I am not so sure that Brazil is clever enough to mount a global strategy, not yet at least. It is growing and with growth comes opportunity and responsibility.

    Sara’s comment attacking Joao da Silva’s anatomical knowledge is symptomatic of a part of any population where the subject matter, in this case “Brazil Is Not As Selfless As It Wants You to Believe” is ignored in favor of lashing out at someone who has an opinion.

    I am not disputing Mr. da Silva’s anatomy, indeed, he may not know the difference, but that has nothing to do with the fact that Brazil has undertaken a larger role in world governance. Roberto Azevêdo is indeed the subject and the newsroom article uses Dr. Burges’ article to slam Brazil just as Sara is of slamming Joao da Silva.

    Dear newsroom, it doesn’t seem that you were able to stir up much controversy on this one.

    Mr. Azevedo, parabens. I agree that you are an excellent choice for the position, ignore the newsroom and Sara and do what you are capable of doing in the interest of your new job.

  • Sara

    You are a fool João da Silva.
    You don’t know your head from your ass

  • João da Silva

    [quote]As Burges notes: “Brazil is blessed with enormously clever and capable diplomats who consistently advance their own country’s national interest while making others think they are acting for the global good.”[/quote]

    Thank God. We are blessed in many ways, including with “enormously clever and capable diplomats”. The job of the diplomats is to advance their country’s national interests, isn’t it?

    If Sean Burges doesn’t understand the job description of a diplomat, it aint worth reading any of his “research” papers.:-);-):D;-)

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