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Lula’s Foreign Policy

 The following is from a email from Foreign Policy magazine:

When former—and now incoming—Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took to the podium in São Paulo on Sunday night following his razor-thin election victory over incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro, he first stressed that he would govern for all Brazilians. Then he proceeded to speak extensively about foreign policy.

In his recent international travels, Lula said, “What I hear the most is that the world misses Brazil. They miss that sovereign Brazil that talks to the richest and most powerful countries like an equal and at the same time contributes to the development of poorer ones.”

Lula alluded to his role in past efforts to integrate South America and Latin America by strengthening customs union Mercosur and the now-defunct regional organ Unasur; carry out technical cooperation with African countries; and create the BRICS grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Going forward, he pledged to work for fairer international trade, take an active role in fighting the climate crisis, and campaign for including more countries as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Brazil has for decades sought a permanent seat on the council.

Celso Amorim, Lula’s foreign minister during his 2003 to 2010 presidency, has often described Lula’s foreign policy of that period as “tall and active”: Brazil opened 35 new embassies and launched new cooperation initiatives with countries including the United States, Iran, and Russia. Amorim remains Lula’s top foreign-policy advisor and stood near him on stage on Sunday; he is expected to continue to advise Lula on foreign policy in the new administration.

But the world has changed dramatically since the two were last in office: Sharp geopolitical tensions between Washington and both China and Russia make Brazil’s previous constellation of alliances more difficult to maintain, and Brasília’s global standing has also diminished dramatically under Bolsonaro. Still, Lula appears set to try to resurrect his wide-ranging foreign policy.

In an early sign of goodwill, Lula received a stream of congratulations from the leaders of countries including the United StatesFrance, and Australia in the minutes after his election victory was confirmed. In at least the U.S. case, Reuters reported that the quick recognition was an effort to stave off any potential attempt by Bolsonaro to contest the election result. Bolsonaro’s chief of staff said Tuesday that the administration had agreed to a transfer of power, but some of the president’s supporters have continued to demonstrate against the election results.

In his calls with foreign leaders such as U.S. President Joe Biden, Lula has emphasized climate cooperation. He pledged in his victory speech to reach zero deforestation and, according to Reuters, has been in talks with authorities in Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo about creating a global alliance for forest protection since before his victory. Norway and Germany have already signaled they plan to unblock environmental aid that they froze over Bolsonaro’s poor climate record. The president of Lula’s Workers’ Party also said Lula will attend next week’s U.N. climate conference in Egypt; Bolsonaro, who presided over soaring deforestation in the Amazon, had not announced plans to attend by Thursday.

In an interview in the September/October issue of Nueva Sociedad, Amorim waded into today’s thornier foreign-policy topics, offering clues as to how Lula may navigate them in office. He expressed a nonaligned position on U.S.-China tensions. On trade—with both China and the European Union—Amorim said Latin American countries should push for guarantees that help local industry. He also emphasized the threat of nuclear weapons use in Russia’s war in Ukraine; in a separate interview, Amorim supported negotiations to end the conflict and said BRICS members could back them.

Latin American countries should especially work to strengthen their ties with Europe, Amorim said, calling the continent “very important in the multipolar game.” As a starting point, it now appears far more likely that a long-stalled trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur—paused in part over concerns about Bolsonaro’s environmental record—will be approved.

Amorim has stressed that Latin American integration is crucial to Lula’s foreign-policy doctrine. True to form, Lula’s first in-person meeting with a head of state as president-elect was with Argentine President Alberto Fernández on Monday. “I want to give him the hug he deserves,” Fernández said, calling Lula a “leader in the region.”

When I was the science officer at the American Embasy in Brasilia, Celso Amorim was the foreign ministry’s adviser to the science ministry. The US wanted to hold a joint science meeting of senior scientists. Celso Amorim was not helpful; he was was not a big fan of the US. However, the meeting did happen. There was some agreement, but nothing much was prodiced as a reult. Fortunately, the science minister was a lot friendler towards the US than Celso Amorim was.

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