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new chapter of Brazilian disinterest in the region

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The 60th edition of the Summit of Heads of State of Mercosur and Associated States takes place today (21), in Paraguay. This is the first face-to-face meeting of the bloc since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. The event will end the pro-tempore Paraguayan presidency and begin the Uruguayan mandate. On the same date, the Prosul meeting will also take place, the Forum for the Progress and Development of South America, created a few years ago as an alternative to Unasur.

During the meeting of Mercosur leaders, discussions are expected, involving, of course, the Common External Tariff (TEC), regulatory matters and sectoral particularities. In addition, sustainability, the energy agenda and infrastructure development should also guide the debates.

An agreement must be signed to combat femicide among the bloc’s countries. The deepening of relations with other partners in the region, and outside of it, should also appear, with a special focus on the legal review of the Mercosur-European Union Association Agreement, which is experiencing a moment full of sensitivities.

Last year, when commemorating the bloc’s 30th anniversary, President Jair Bolsonaro defended updating the TEC as a central part of the process of recovering Brazilian dynamism. He spoke of the need to modernize the bloc and the importance of redoubling efforts in external negotiations to promote innovation and attract foreign investment.

Despite this, however, Brazil is experiencing, in this area, one of its many ambiguities in terms of foreign policy. While professional diplomacy sews agreements consistent with the country’s foreign policy traditions and makes it possible to sign important documents, as was the case with the presidential declarations on Defense Cooperation, Post-Pandemic Recovery and Digital Integration signed at the previous Summit, for example, the chief executive himself does not miss the opportunity to make clear the lack of political interest in this agenda. There is a huge chasm between what he says and what the government does in this field.

In fact, its own action, both at the last Summit and at this one, is, in itself, a manifestation of the lack of a sense of priority in regional integration issues. The 59th meeting, which was chaired by Brazil, at the end of 2021, provided for a return to face-to-face meetings. Days before the event, however, the Bolsonaro government decided to change the event to a virtual format. The gesture caused enormous embarrassment and was seen by foreign interlocutors as an intentional boycott by the Brazilian government, since the decision coincided with a visit by former President Lula to Argentine President Alberto Fernandez.

At this year’s event, the 60th meeting, Bolsonaro simply decided not to go to Paraguay citing “schedule issues in Brazil”. At the last minute, government sources informed that he would possibly participate by sending a previously recorded video to be shown to the other participants during the meeting.

Yesterday, the president’s official agenda included meetings with Pedro Cesar Sousa, deputy chief for Legal Affairs at the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic; with Carlos Massa Ratinho Júnior, governor of the state of Paraná; with Deputy Otoni de Paula (MDB/RJ); and the president’s participation in the opening of the 57th National and International Convention of the Casas da Bênção Churches, in addition to a few acts of sanction of PLs.

Today, in addition to another meeting with Pedro Cesar Sousa, the president has only three other meetings scheduled: with two of his own ministers and with Bruno Bianco, the Union’s attorney general. Last night, the president went to the Mané Garrincha stadium to watch the game between Flamengo and Juventude.

In addition to the successive protocol embarrassments in the events mentioned above, Bolsonaro’s relationship with the bloc has also been marked, in recent years, by provocations and ironies in relation to partners, in addition to a significant crisis involving the environmental agenda and the effects it provoked in terms of matters. of Mercosur’s external relations.

Only in 2022, in the accumulated until June, the data from the Itamaraty itself show that Brazil exported about US$ 10.5 billion to the Mercosur countries. Brazil is the largest country in the bloc. It is the most populous, territorially vast and economically significant country in Latin America. It was considered, until then, the strongest propeller of the interests of the region in the world. With Bolsonaro, he saw this protagonism wane.

As in several other fronts of the country’s international insertion, we are facing yet another leadership deficit. In Paraguay, in 2022, we once again see government policy phagocytizing opportunities to address state affairs.



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