Brazil: slowdown won't halt ascent on world stage

Date de la référence: 
31 May, 2012

A stagnating domestic economy and uncertainty abroad will not hinder Brazil's long-sought ascendance on the world stage, Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said on Thursday.

Patriota said in an interview during the Reuters Latin America Investment Summit that hard-won economic gains over the past decade have given Brazil enough clout in global commerce and diplomacy for the country to remain a player even as its once-booming economy sputters because of uncertainty in Europe, slowing growth in China, and a decline in prices of commodity exports.

He said Brazil was using its voice in global discussions to end violence in Syria and in the run-up to a United Nations conference on sustainable development scheduled to be held in Rio de Janeiro next month.

Buoyed by an export boom, Brazil parlayed strong domestic demand, market-friendly policies, and ambitious social programs into a period of sustained economic growth averaging more than 4 percent annually for most of the past decade. That catapulted more than 30 million people out of poverty and into a fast-growing middle class in Latin America's biggest economy.

"Brazil has a voice because of achievements at home," Patriota said.

Growth, however, has slowed to 2.7 percent last year from 7.5 percent in 2010. Though Brazil's government has forecast a pickup for later in the year, many economists believe the economy will not do much better in 2012.

Official data due out on Friday is expected to show that Brazil's gross domestic product expanded just 0.5 percent in the first three months of the year from the previous quarter, a disappointment for an economy that surpassed Britain last year to become the world's sixth largest.

Still, Patriota said country remains "an example that effectively gives Brazil an unprecedented ability to be part of the dialogue."


In the debate over Syria, Patriota said Brazil is arguing against military intervention and measures such as the expulsion this week of Syrian ambassadors by the United States, France, and other countries because of violence against civilians that persists in Syria. Such an action, Patriota said, "does nothing to reduce violence."

He dismissed criticism that Brazil's diplomats, long praised as able negotiators, are sluggish when it comes to international efforts to stem crises. Brazil, for example, was opposed to intervention in Libya last year and routinely shies away from overt criticism of human rights abuses in countries like Cuba.

"The pace of diplomacy isn't always fast enough to get ahead of crises or violence," Patriota said. By ceding to calls for force, he said, other countries "weaken the multilateral system" and flout the mechanisms established by international law to resolve conflicts.


Patriota said Brazil was also pushing hard for other countries to adopt realistic goals for the upcoming development summit, dubbed Rio+20, because of the 20th anniversary of the landmark Earth Summit in the city.

Compared with that meeting, which paved the way for the Kyoto climate treaty and established a U.N. convention on biodiversity, the upcoming summit was conceived as a forum to discuss a range of issues, not just the environment, Patriota said. Economic growth, job creation, and social inclusion are just as crucial for Brazil and other developing nations, he said.

"It is not an environmental summit," Patriota said. "It has to be about development."