Given the current set of geopolitical dynamics that continue to unfold between Russia and the West, the ongoing humanitarian crises in the Middle East and parts of Africa, along with the growing influence of China in the Western Hemisphere, President Rousseff is presented with an opportunity to create new strategic political alliances, emerge as a vocal leader for the global South, and to become an even stronger advocate for regional integration initiatives.
During Rousseff's first term, Brazil’s foreign policy shifted from a regional focus to a more global one. As Latin America's largest economy, Brazil has emerged as a key player in the international arena, becoming one of the leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20), the international body made up of industrial and emerging market nations, and the group of key emerging economies known as the BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). It hosted the BRICS presidential summit earlier this year.
Under her previous administration, the Brazilian government also increased its international political influence by providing assistance to the developing world, particularly through south-south solidarity projects.
The vast majority of Brazilian international development cooperation is concentrated in Latin America and Africa, which is reflective of Brazilian foreign policy objectives. They aim to strengthen cultural, economic and political ties with the global south.
Moving forward, the Brazilian government has already vowed to expand its foreign policy objectives and deepen its previous commitments.
In November 2014, Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations Luiz Alberto Figueiredo delivered an important lecture to the students and faculty at the University of Brasilia in which he articulated many key principles and goals of the current Brazilian foreign diplomacy doctrine, including the need to increase levels of Brazilian participation in regional integration efforts through the promotion of “economic diplomacy” and continued involvement in global governance forums.
With regards to regional integration he stated, “South America remains a priority area of foreign policy … It is in Brazil’s best interest to actively work to consolidate a prosperous, democratic and increasingly integrated South American space.”
Brazilian President Rousseff reiterated these sentiments during her speech at Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) presidential summit held in Ecuador in December when she vowed to promote regional integration as a strategy to combat the global economic crisis.
Rousseff highlighted the potential role of UNASUR and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) in bringing increased economic stability to the region, which has suffered slowed economic growth due to the recent decline in oil prices, shrinking global demand for regional export commodities, and sluggish economic growth in the global North.
Brazil’s regional foreign policy objectives are strongly influenced by the country’s economic diplomacy efforts that are outlined in the Greater Brazil Plan – a series of polices aimed at expanding Brazilian corporate investment throughout Latin America.
According to Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), between January and August of 2014 Brazil registered an increase in intraregional foreign direct investment of 48 percent.
The growing importance of intraregional foreign direct investment reflects the investment strategies of Brazil's main transnational firms.
The influence of Brazilian corporations in regional markets, along with an increase in intraregional foreign direct investment – a strategy to strengthen Brazilian political influence throughout the region – will likely become a defining characteristic of President Rousseff’s larger foreign policy objectives over the next four years.
During her remarks at the UNASUR summit, Rousseff went on to stress the importance of strengthening ties and cooperation between the BRICS alliance and UNASUR member countries.
“The Summit between the BRICS countries and UNASUR, which we hosted in Brasilia last July, shows the growing importance of our region as a global partner for dialogue and cooperation. Therefore, without a doubt, in the upcoming years we will continue to diversify and search for new partners,” Rousseff stated.
A key aspect of the Brazilian foreign policy project will be adjusting to and taking advantage of the newly emerging political dynamics, which have increased the "diplomatic potential" of emerging countries precisely because of the greater capacity to articulate their interests and visions by creating alternative groups and coalitions.
“It can also be foreseen that in a scenario of growing multipolarity, regionalism will be more-not less- important in international relations,” Foreign Minister Figueiredo stated during his academic lecture in November.
Brazil’s membership of the G-20 and BRICS presents a strategic opportunity to make joint proposals along with regional integration institutions that would provide the region with a much stronger voice in important global governance debates.
Foreign Policy Reflects Domestic Development Agenda
Finally, the Brazilian government has also stressed the importance of promoting a foreign policy agenda that reflects and fulfills the interests of the country’s domestic population and national development goals.
“Foreign policy must serve the Brazilian government and the entire society’s efforts to achieve the country’s full potential,” said Foreign Minister Figueiredo. “In this sense, the defense of our national development interests requires a foreign policy strategy that defines our goals both from the perspective of the international system and also our national reality.”
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