The health crisis arising from the Covid-19 pandemic continued to influence the international agenda. In 2021, there were several moments that marked the isolation of Brazilian foreign policy and constraints due to actions by the federal government. Outdoor events resumed in 2021 due to expanded access to the coronavirus vaccine.
In this sense, President Jair Bolsonaro’s trip to Italy for the G20 meeting and to New York for the United Nations General Assembly marked Brazilian political isolation and embarrassment to Bolsonaro’s decision not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the international media. In Italy, the President has not held meetings, as is usual, with other leaders with the exception of the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, in which he is the host of the event and must meet with all the authorities due to protocol.
At the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Bolsonaro was accused of distorting data about environmental events in Brazil. In addition, the President was criticized for advocating early treatment consisting of a kit of drugs considered ineffective against covid-19 by scientists and medical authorities from several nations.
It is worth mentioning that international events, such as the G20 and the United Nations General Assembly, are thermometers as an indication of the importance of the country in the global scenario. As a tradition, Brazil is a requested nation for, historically, performing a role of articulator in international negotiations and debates involving several countries.
Another negative aspect for foreign policy was President Bolsonaro's decision not to go to the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention (COP26). Bolsonaro was under strong international pressure due to increased deforestation and fires in the Amazon region.
In the regional political scenario, Brazil held the pro tempore presidency of Mercosur in the second half of 2021. The Brazilian priority agenda for its mandate was about the decisions to extend two special import regimes, the ex-tariff regimes and the launch of negotiations for a free trade agreement with Indonesia.
For 2022, there is no expectation of improvement in the visibility of the Brazilian government abroad. However, it is expected that the country will begin the process of joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and try to redeem the sustainability agenda by adhering to the commitments made at COP26, such as the creation of a carbon market system in the country.
The Brazilian pro tempore presidency in the last six months by President Jair Bolsonaro was celebrated for giving vent to sensitive issues in the bloc, such as the Common External Tariff (TEC) negotiations and bilateral agreements with countries outside Mercosur.
The Ministry of Economy stated that the average TEC in Mercosur is high compared to the international average. The Block Tariff is around 13% while the global average is at 5%. Bolsonaro reinforced during his presidency the importance of maintenance to make a positive contribution to the private sector and citizens of the bloc.
Although the Brazilian president was unable to finalize the discussions on the Common External Tariff, the conclusion of technical pending issues was carried out in the agreements with the European Union and the European Free Trade Association, which will enable rapid progress towards the signing of the agreements. The President stated that TEC will continue to be a priority for Brazil.
Still in the Brazilian presidency, Bolsonaro defended trade opening in Mercosur to insert the bloc into the world economy and expand integration in global chains. The President mentioned external negotiations with extra-regional partners, carried out during the Brazilian presidency of the bloc, such as: Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the Pacific Alliance.
For 2022, the pro tempore presidency is under the command of Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez, who said he will make efforts to meet in person between January and February with the presidents of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The aim is to be able to converge the bloc's economic agendas and strengthen Mercosur. In addition, Abdo Benítez highlighted that TEC will be a priority agenda during his presidency.
Despite positive expectations for the progress of the Tariff this year, Argentina continues to hold discussions on the subject, stating the need for the review to be rational and cautious. Brazil argues that the reform will contribute economically to the bloc by contributing to lower import tariffs.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
In 2017, Brazil formalized its application to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The Bolsonaro government placed admission to the group as one of the priority agendas of its administration.
In this way, the government has carried out and implemented several requirements necessary for membership of the OECD. The Organization values the preservation of individual freedom, the values of democracy, the protection of human rights and the value of open, commercial, competitive, sustainable and transparent market economies.
In January, OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann announced the invitation to begin the process of including Argentina, Bulgaria, Brazil, Croatia, Peru and Romania. The time to join is around two years. However, French President Emmanuel Macron said that the outcome for the countries' accession will depend on the reforms carried out in line with the Organization's values, norms and standards.
Furthermore, Macron stated that he will not accept Brazil in the OECD if the country does not take concrete climate action. For the French president, it is essential that the nations in the process of accession pay attention to priority areas, such as the agenda against deforestation, climate change, protection of biodiversity, measures against corruption and the opening of economies.
The relationship between Emmanuel Macron and President Jair Bolsonaro has been frayed since 2019, in which the Brazilian president criticized Macron for trying to potentiate hatred against Brazil. The French leader said that Bolsonaro lied about his commitments to protecting the environment and announced that he was against the agreement between Mercosur and the European Union.
Finally, Brazil has made efforts in several areas to meet the OECD guidelines. The country is expected to fulfill the commitments made at COP26 to meet the responsibilities assumed with regard to the environment. In addition, in 2022, Rio+30 and the 5th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) will take place, where Brazil will be able to use it as a showcase for implementations and internal changes in the sustainability agenda.
Bulletin updated on 01/31/2022
Wrote by Umbelino Lôbo Team: Jessica Coneza, Advisor.