BRICS Prospects

The iew from Brazil through the prism of the forthcoming presidential elections

The first round of the presidential election in the Federative Republic of Brazil is scheduled for 5 October 2014. 

The main contenders for the president’s post are the current incumbent Dilma Rousseff (Workers' Party  or Partido dos Trabalhadores – PT), Marina Silva (Brazilian Socialist Party or Partido Socialista Brasileiro – PSB), and Aécio Neves, who represents the largest opposition party (Brazilian Social Democrat Party or Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira - PSDB). 

According to preliminary opinion polls (mid-September 2014), current president Dilma Rousseff leads with 37%, followed by Marina Silva with 30% and Aécio Neves with 17%.

An analysis of the chief parties’ election programs (PT, PSB, PSDB) shows that, despite the relatively little space given to foreign policy in those documents (usually 1-2 out of 40-250 pages), BRICS features in each program.

Dilma Rousseff’s election program confirms the continuation of current foreign policy and the basic composition of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ professional team. The key focus of the incumbent president’s foreign policy vision is to increase the role of Brazil in international organizations such that it corresponds to the country’s current economic potential and importance as a regional leader. Her policy document emphasises that Brazil will continue to regard relationships along the South - South axis as "privileged". The so-called “Global South” grouping includes several BRICS members. In this context, the bloc is regarded as a real embodiment of that strategy. Another area of Dilma Rousseff’s foreign policy strategy is to strengthen relations with developing countries by consolidating existing and creating new mechanisms that could promote mutual investments in infrastructure and energy.

Analysis of the foreign policy aspects of Aécio Neves’ election campaign indicates no radical changes in the event he should succeed.  Rather, there will be a certain correction of the course. Firstly, it will affect ties with developing countries, especially the “too close”, in Neves’ opinion, ties with Venezuala and Cuba. The change will also affect interaction with MERCOSUR countries in relation to the reactivation of those bonds, especially in terms of promoting private entrepreneurial initiative. As for cooperation with BRICS, Ambassador Rubens Barbosa, Neves’ advisor on foreign affairs, formulates it as very positive in terms of positioning the country on the international stage. In addition, Neves’ electoral program focuses on the intensification of relations with the countries of the Asian region, which is becoming increasingly important in the world economic system. In this context, the position of Brazil in BRICS also has great importance. 

The main leitmotif of Brazilian Socialist Party candidate Marina Silva’s foreign policy program is a "multi-polar world," which practically fully accords with BRICS’ key strategy. The candidate regards cooperation within the bloc as a tool to strengthen the influence of Brazil in the major international institutions established in the wake of World War II without reference to the current role of developing countries. Historically, the Brazilian Socialist Party stands for the development and deepening of relations with developing countries and the strengthening, including on that basis, of national sovereignty as opposed to closer cooperation with developed countries.

Despite their often fundamental differences with respect to the country’s internal affairs and economic course, within their party programs and in statements made in the course of the election campaign, the principal candidates all highlight BRICS relations. This is largely due to the following factors:

  1. Brazil’s desire to be established as a "global player"
  2. ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources
  3. gaining access to new markets for goods and services
  4. providing access to capital markets on an equitable basis and growing influence in global financial institutions
  5. broadening access to international investment sources for infrastructure development, and
  6. gaining better access to modern technology. 

Virtually all of Brazil’s presidential candidates noted that the large-scale political and economic challenges facing the country can be solved only by relying on the powerful and influential international organizations to which they belong and BRICS. 

Pragmatic approach of the presidential candidates is also due to a decrease in the country’s rate of economic growth and the need to expand international economic cooperation. In this regard, BRICS is regarded as one of the most important tools for the nation’s economic growth.

According to Brazil’s Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade, trade with BRICS countries since 2008 has increased more than twofold, reaching USD 101.2 billion by the end of 2013. This trend permits projecting a further increase up to USD 150-155 billion in the next 3-4 years, ie virtually within one electoral cycle.

An important factor when considering the subject of BRICS is foreign direct investment (FDI). According to Brazil’s Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade of Brazil, FDI from BRICS countries reached USD 8.56 billion in 2013 and has a strong upward trend.

A positive factor, which has significantly influenced the formation of the political parties’ policy documents in the area of foreign affairs, was the set of decisions made on the basis of the BRICS summit in July at Fortaleza (Brazil), in particular the decision to establish the BRICS Development Bank and its focus on infrastructure projects. According to leading Brazilian economists, that Brazil lags behind in the infrastructure development is one of the main factors hindering the country’s further economic growth.

Taking the above into account, the results of the upcoming presidential election will not affect Brazil’s policies in relation to the BRICS. Brazil will continue to regard its participation in the bloc as one of the strategic pillars of its foreign policy, aimed at enhancing the country’s role on the international stage and ensuring sustainable economic development through the diversification of foreign economic relations.

Brazil BRICS elections