President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) returns from his first international trips enshrining one of his campaign promises: Brazil’s reintegration into the world. He started with Latin America, also reintegrating, politically and commercially, the country into the region it belongs to.
There were two points that inaugurated the international agenda of the current government. The first, participation in the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Tuesday (24). The seventh edition of the meeting had representatives from 33 countries in the region, and was marked by the return of Brazil to the organization.
On Wednesday (25), the Brazilian delegation left for Uruguay to deal with matters more related to Mercosur and to ease the tensions installed since the president of the country, Luis Lacalle Pou, advanced in his direct link with China, on the outside of the block. Lula’s meeting with Lacalle Pou marked, in this sense, the relevance of Uruguay and the possibility of reviewing its demands as a member of Mercosur.
reopening of dialogue
The last stop before returning to Brazil was an important part of Lula’s international agenda, resuming the country’s dialogue with governments of different political stances. Uruguay is currently governed by the center-right, and the meeting between Lula and Lacalle Pou represented this resumption after the isolation of Brazil under the command of Jair Bolsonaro (PL) in the last four years.
:: In Uruguay, Lula tells Lacalle Pou that he supports a trade agreement with China within Mercosur ::
“Presidents don’t need to like me,” said Lula during the conference with the Uruguayan president, in Montevideo. “The relationship between two heads of state requires two things: respect for the sovereignty of each country and the interests of doing good for the people of each country.”
“The space for integration has to be to advance in State policy and not government policy, and a good articulation with Uruguay can create State policies”, says the analyst and professor of international relations at the São Paulo State University (Unesp) Mark Cordeiro.
He points out that the perspective of a free trade agreement with China and the United States was already something ruled by the Frente Ampla government, with former Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez. The issue would be, in this case, a possible free trade agreement with other countries having privileged access to Mercosur countries, which would mean a threat to Brazilian, Argentinean and Paraguayan industries. “It is something that would not make sense from the point of view of regional integration”, emphasizes Cordeiro.
On Wednesday (25), President Lula is in Uruguay to deal with issues related to Mercosur. During his speech, Lula referred to former President Michel Temer as a “coup leader”.
Lula returns from first international trips #BrasildeFato 📲 https://t.co/OlgFd5kJ6S pic.twitter.com/q9eUDAJIoS
— Brasil de Fato (@brasildefato) January 26, 2023
At the bilateral meeting, Lula and Lacalle Pou discussed issues related to infrastructure, with works on a waterway and a binational bridge, and multilateral relations.
“It is worth mentioning that the main point of integration in Mercosur is the automotive sector, which represents at least 50% of all exchanges in the bloc”, he points out. “But who are the leaders of this integration process? They are North American, European or Japanese multinational companies. So, we have to move forward with integration to create industrial capacity and competitiveness in our region. This issue addressed with Uruguay signals a measure more palpable for this integration to occur.”
Lula’s presence at the CELAC summit and the extensive agenda in Buenos Aires also marked Brazil’s reinsertion in different themes transversal to the region – especially those related to the processes of threat to democracy and the sovereignty of the territories.
“Most presidents (at Celac) congratulated Lula as being a fundamental and much-awaited presence at the summit”, observes doctor in social sciences Tamara Lajtman, researcher at the Latin American Strategic Center of Geopolitics (Celag), in Argentina.
“The reintegration of Brazil into CELAC marked the agenda of the summit and also the return of Brazil to the great multilateral forums”, he says. “With regard to Celac, we can think of a certain geopolitical pivot between Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, with financial and political support for the organization that should gain strength in the coming years.”
In this sense, Brazil is once again seen as a kind of regional leadership, and one that may also confer greater relevance to the organization’s own objectives. During the summit’s opening speech, Argentine President Alberto Fernández, acting as CELAC’s pro tempore president, applauded Brazil for its reintegration into the organization. “A Celac without Brazil is a much emptier Celac”, he stated.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro emphasized the need to empower Celac to fulfill its objectives as a bloc. “There is a great distance between the rhetoric of Latin American integration and reality. We talk a lot, but we do little to make it really happen. And I believe that this story has to change”, highlighted Petro in his speech.
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“Today, Celac does not have as strong an institutional structure as Unasur had at the time”, emphasizes Lajtman. “Now, there is a concrete possibility of reactivating Unasur, because there is a need expressed by the heads of state. Petro remarked in a very forceful way the need to give more mechanisms to Celac, so that it is not just a forum for dialogue”, he says. .
Some possibilities under discussion in this regard to strengthen CELAC, disputing regional influence before the Organization of American States (OAS), include the existence of a headquarters, its own budget and permanent thematic working groups. However, there were no advances in this sense indicated in the Declaration of Buenos Aires, the resolution document of the summit.
Lula highlighted in his speech the need to deepen regional relations with other blocs, such as the African Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union.
The summit ended with the transfer of the pro tempore presidency to the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which should give greater relevance to matters related to the climate emergency, whose effects especially impact the Caribbean region.
The creation of a common currency in the region was perhaps the great topic that opened debates, left some doubts and was even used by Bolsonarism to spread misinformation.
The subject led to a press conference during Celac, in Buenos Aires, between economy ministers Fernando Haddad, from Brazil, and Sergio Massa, from Argentina.
“The Brazilian government speaks of a common currency, for commercial exchanges, which would be different from a single currency”, explains Marcos Cordeiro, pointing out that a single currency is like the euro in the European Union, which replaced local currencies and created problems for countries with high inflation. Therefore, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal have already considered abandoning the single currency of the European bloc.
“These countries had a higher indebtedness and a different inflation index in relation to, for example, Germany, which generated a lack of compensation. For very little, these countries did not leave the bloc”, he explains. “If you have higher inflation in Greece, it means that the product is more expensive and productivity is lower. within the euro. With the disparity of policies in Latin America and the Caribbean, a single currency is unfeasible. What is under discussion is a common currency, which would serve for commercial exchange between countries”, highlights Cordeiro.
Differences already begin within the scope of the discussion on the proposal. The president of Mexico, André Manuel López Obrador, has already highlighted that he has no interest in the common currency.
“It is easier to understand Mexico’s position, given its economic dependence on the US, but some countries such as Venezuela are already showing interest in moving forward with the proposal”, highlights Lajtman. “In general, I think we can think of Brazil’s re-entry as a strengthening of the political weight that Celac can have at the international level, of bringing the region’s joint voice to multilateral forums, the relaunch of the Brics, etc.”, he says, mentioning the bloc that Brazil integrates with India, China, Russia and South Africa. “In this sense, we have to be pending the US reaction, which will be one of Lula’s next visits. There will be very strong pressure for Brazil not to strengthen the Brics.”
Editing: Thales Schmidt
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