Brazilian and Argentine international relations experts anticipate that if as all opinion polls indicate Dilma Rousseff will be elected next Sunday as the first woman president in the history of Brazil, the country’s foreign policy will continue the model implemented by President Lula da Silva.
That means emphasizing integration with the regional trade block Mercosur and opening to the rest of the world, particularly closer relations with BRIC, (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
China and India have the largest populations in the world, Russia is the main oil producer and together the four countries represent 16% of the global GDP and 40% of total population. They are all members of the G-20 and between 2000 and 2008 were responsible for 50% of the world’s GDP growth.
“There won’t be changes in foreign policy. The political line will be the same: Lula’s model will surely continue under the management of Rousseff” according to William Gonçalves a professor at the State University of Rio do Janeiro.
Mónica Hirst, professor of international relations at Torcuato Di Tella University in Argentina, agrees with Gonçalves, adding that “Brazil’s integration with Mercosur and the rest of the world will continue to deepen.”
For his part, Daniel Rittner, a journalist with Sao Paulo’s Valor Económico partially agreed and said that “Rousseff should give continuity to a policy of rapprochement with Brazil’s Mercosur neighbors and relative tolerance to the Argentine government’s protectionist commercial measures.”
But when it came to Brazil’s world presence, Rittner asked “to what degree does Brazil’s projection in recent years have to do only with its growth and to what degree with Lula da Silva’s personal marketing? Rousseff doesn’t have the charisma or the life story that Lula does. Without him, we’ll see more clearly what Brazil’s new international, geopolitical role truly is”.
However if the winner is opposition candidate and former governor of Sao Paulo, Jose Serra, relations with BRIC can be expected to continue since the group of emerging giant economies “is too powerful, no changes there”, according to David Fleischer international relations professor at the University of Brasilia.
The difference will effectively take place in relations with the region, “Serra and the strong industrial lobby from Sao Paulo are not pleased with current relations with Mercosur”, said Goncalves.
The Sao Paulo industry consider Mercosur and its ‘cumbersome procedures’ to be a ‘too heavy’ back pack that limits Brazil’s flexibility in reaching trade agreements with other regions and countries.
“Mercosur must be made more flexible, so as to avoid an obstacle for aggressive trade policies” said Serra earlier in the campaign arguing that the current format of Mercosur, as a customs union, limits negotiations for trade agreements with non member countries unless there is a consensus in the block.
“To keep carrying the burden of this Mercosur in its current condition is senseless. The customs’ union is a farce, except when it is used to impede, to block” Serra was quoted during a meeting with leading businessmen from the state of Minas Gerais.