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Isolation of the “South American giant” in the BRICS

In the past few months, political analysts are increasingly arguing about Brazilian positions in the BRICS group of countries. Such discussions are quite explicable, because the real policy of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is increasingly sharpening the differences between the participants of the union. From the very first day of his presidency, Bolsonaro has staked on supporting his political orientations in the White House. In addition, a split in the group on the situation in Venezuela and on the WTO reform calls into question the organization’s summit to be held in the Brazilian capital on November 13-14 of this year. How will Brazil try to maintain its influence in the BRICS block? What are the prospects for the “South American giant” in one of the most progressive blocks in modern history?

The current state of affairs in Venezuela and the reform of the WTO (World Trade Organization) continue to deepen the split in the BRICS group (BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and call into question the feasibility of holding the Summit of the organization to be held in Brasilia on November 13 and 14. In relation to Venezuela, the balance of forces in the bloc today is four to one: China, Russia, South Africa and India take a position with the support of official Caracas, the opposite of Brazil, and Brazil has symbolically joined the US camp. Unlike Jair Bolsonaro (port. – Jair Messias Bolsonaro), none of the four BRICS countries recognize the legitimacy of the government of self-proclaimed President Juan Guaidó (Spanish – Juan Gerardo Antonio Guaidó Márquez), and all these states oppose any external intervention.

Immediately after the start of the dramatic events in Venezuela, in January of this year, the representatives of the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made an official statement in which it said that the search for a political solution is the business of the Venezuelan people only, people themselves must overcome differences by building constructive dialogue and discussions without using of violence. By the way, already in April, the Indian Foreign Ministry reiterated its position. Such statements are explained primarily by the fact that in 2018 Venezuela became the fourth largest supplier of oil to India, which imports 80% of the oil used. And in February of this year, the country reached record levels of imports of Venezuelan oil.

However, after the pressure exerted by the United States, purchases dropped sharply in March. At the moment, India was in a rather difficult situation, because of the American sanctions, the Indian government also had to refuse to supply oil from Iran, which is one of its main suppliers. Despite recent events and sanctions against Iran, India does not plan to take measures hostile to Nicolas Maduro (Spanish – Nicolás Maduro Moros), as the Brazilian government intends to do.

Speaking of the other members of the BRICS group, South Africa, Russia and China today hold a less “ambivalent” position and make it clear that attempts by Guaidó to seize power are essentially a coup d’état, and at the moment they still continue provide support to the government of official Caracas. It is worth noting that in the UN Security Council they all voted against the resolution put forward by the United States recognizing the legitimacy of Juan Guaidó. Many political observers suggest that the BRICS bloc has always been a “marriage of convenience”: its participants have nothing in common with each other, nevertheless, they make every effort to ensure that this union functions, and also act as a single “front”.

Under the conditions of the new “South American giant” foreign policy guidelines proposed by Jair Bolsonaro, such differences began to appear particularly “acute”. In his statements, the Brazilian leader has repeatedly stressed that he does not have the slightest interest in India and South Africa, in addition, he is ambiguous about the positions of China. Also, Bolsonaro is not interested in an alliance with “non-Western countries,” since he probably wants to establish Brazil as a Western Christian state that shares the position of Washington.

In turn, India is pursuing a more pragmatic policy. The current Indian government, depending on the alignment of forces and pursuing its own interests, joins either China or the United States, and also benefits from the hostility between the two superpowers. The Brazilian government, on the contrary, is trying to do everything possible to exclude Venezuela from the official agenda of the BRICS countries and focus the attention of the participants of the forthcoming summit on such topics as advanced technologies, digital innovations, the fight against terrorism and illegal money circulation. However, it is very difficult to ignore the acute economic and political crisis in Venezuela.

Another delicate and controversial topic for the preparation of the BRICS summit in November is WTO reform. At a meeting held in mid-May in India, Brazil once again pulled away from the other members of the bloc. The Brazilian side refused to sign the declaration proposed in Delhi, the purpose of which was to reject Washington’s proposal to change the special and differential regime in the WTO. The White House believes that in this scenario, China and India will be able to get additional benefits. The point is that this mechanism will allow to extend the terms of trade agreements and create more flexible conditions for the so-called developing countries. Moreover, the Brazilian position is at odds with India on the issue of the protection of agriculture, which the country demands. Brazil, along with Turkey, Kazakhstan, Guatemala and Argentina disagreed with the Indian text of the claim. China, South Africa and 15 other countries supported India in such a determined attempt to repel the United States. It is worth noting that the Russian side was not present at the meeting. The Indian Trade Minister Anup Wadhawan in his statement stressed that a group of countries had been established that believed in the same principles, referring to the statement that Brazil refused to sign.

It is worth recalling that during a meeting with the President Donald Trump (Eng. – Donald John Trump), held in Washington in March, Bolsonaro promised to begin the process of giving up Brazil’s special status in the WTO in exchange for the White House’s pledge to support the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). The government of Jair Bolsonaro believes that it will no longer resort to a special regime during the negotiations, and considers the reform of the WTO to be an indispensable process for survival within the organization. Of course, the US support will not mean that Brazil will automatically be accepted into the OECD. During the meeting between the two leaders, Donald Trump just made it clear that the United States would stop imposing its veto power over Brazil’s claims.

Summing up, it is very important to understand that in order to become an official member of the OECD, the Latin American country has yet to fulfill a number of requirements of the organization, although most of them are already satisfied. However, none of the promises of support has yet been documented: according to American diplomats, they have not yet received instructions to change their position. How Brazil will try to “sit on two chairs”, will show the upcoming BRICS summit. Nevertheless, it is already obvious that this meeting of the once most promising integration block will take place in difficult conditions.

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