Brazil’s 26 states and 200 million people make it the fourth largest country in the world. Recently the country overtook the UK to become the world’s sixth largest economy with a GDP of USD 2.5 trillion and a per capita GDP of USD 12,917.
Capital’s Elias Gebreselassie talked to Ambassador Antonio Patriota , Brazil’s Foreign Minister. In 2011 he took over from the previous FM Celso Amorim following the swearing in of Brazil’s first female president Dilma Vana Rousseff who took over from the popular Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva.
Capital: Please tell us about your mission here in Addis Ababa?
Ambassador Antonio Patriota: I came to Addis Ababa, first of all to have bilateral contact with the Ethiopian government. I was very honored to be received by Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and then by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, followed by a meeting with the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (PSCAU). At the AU meeting I held talks with Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra who deals with peace and security in the African Union Secretariat.
Capital: Brazil is one of the BRICS members’ countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). What role does Brazil play in this group?
Patriota: We are very engaged integrating South America, which is a region that’s experiencing high economic growth, reducing inequality, and bringing democracy to all countries. In addition to that Brazil has been developing what we call global outreach where we look at established powers like the United States, and emerging powers as partners. BRICS is a special coordination mechanism; financial and economic issues, science and technology and political issues are very important to us. However, let me add that we place a high importance on Africa; we are one of the countries with the largest number of embassies in Africa worldwide. Africa is experiencing several success stories in terms of economic growth and Ethiopia is a very good example of stability, both in social progress and economic potential. This is a country of great possibilities; so as we engage globally with the BRICS we wish to pay special attention to Africa also, not only South Africa which is a BRICS member but all the leaders in the continent and certainly Ethiopia is in a leadership position right now.
Capital: How far along is the idea of a BRICS bank for developing countries?
Patriota: We began considering this at the last BRICS summit in New Delhi, India where my president Dilma Roussef attended. We supported the idea of a BRICS bank, because it would provide resources for the developing world. Also, again I think Africa should be a focus, we’re still in the initial stages of the studies for the establishment of the bank. But at the political level there have been expressions of support and we will continue to be engaged in the efforts to see this materialize in the nearest possible future.
Capital: The former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo unsuccessfully ran for the World Bank presidency. As is often the case, the position was taken by an American, based on longstanding agreements between Europe and America. What is your view on this issue?
Patriota: We feel that the time for oligarchic approaches to the distribution of positions internationally is over. And we believe that the heads of the IMF and WB should be chosen on the basis of merit and the curriculum and not nationality. If you look at the economic situation for 2012 more than 50 percent of the world’s growth will be insured by the BRICS countries and the emerging nations of the world. So there’s no reason why Europe and the United States should monopolize positions in the IMF and WB which is why we subsequently supported the Nigerian candidate Ngozi Onkonjo- Iweala to make a systemic point. But we also believe the new World Bank President is a very capable leader and we intend to work very constructively with him. I personally have met with him and I admire his works as a public health specialist in places like Haiti, Peru; so we wish him all the success in his tenure as World Bank President.
Capital: What is Brazil doing to increase its role in these financial institutions like the IMF and the WB, while also furthering the interests of developing countries in these institutions?
Patriota: When we look at furthering development with partners in Africa and elsewhere, we don’t necessarily go through the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. Of course they have their own role to play especially in the World Bank because it is a major source of support. But many Brazilian companies are increasingly involved in activities worldwide, here in Africa it’s no different, in the spirit of not only looking at profits but of contributing to the social progress of the nations where they have a presence. So in the mining area, the infrastructure development area, there are companies working in several countries like Angola, Mozambique and the West African region. We also hope to be a part of Ethiopia’s efforts to increase energy output. Brazil and Ethiopia are countries that place a high value on Hydro Electric Power, also there’s the Lamu project that will involve Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia which are expected to also involve Brazilian companies. I also spoke to the Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopian Airlines Tewolde Gebremariam, there are plans to fly directly to Brazil. This will greatly increase the possibilities for government, business, academics or other citizens to engage in cooperation with this part of the world. In addition to that the Brazilian government has a cooperation agency, we work on many fronts, agriculture is one and here in Ethiopia the conditions are similar to those in Brazil, so there’s a lot that we can accomplish through maybe helping Ethiopia develop bio-fuels through sugar cane plantations. These are all avenues that we would like to explore, as well as education as mentioned by Prime Minister Meles. I will go back to Brazil and try to see how we can enhance educational cooperation.
Capital: Brazil has a long history of ties with the African continent both socially and economically. What steps is it taking to enhance and develop them?
Patriota: We have forty embassies in Africa and a presence in the African Union and Arab League. We feel enthusiastic about the South America-Africa summit which is a forum that meets at regular intervals. So you can be reassured that in our future diplomatic efforts, Africa will feature prominently. Brazil could not be imagined or conceived without recognizing the strong African contribution to our national identity, and we wish to place a high value on our relations with countries in Africa, and in particular with some of the leaders in Africa. Addis Ababa being the diplomatic capital of Africa is a place where more and more Brazilians will be visiting.
Capital: For a two year period -2010-11- Brazil was a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). What steps is it proposing to make the UNSC more accountable to the whole international community?
Patriota: We’re very active at the United Nations in trying to correct what we call the democratic deficit. In no place is this more obvious than the Security Council, because the composition reflects the world of the post world war II and not the contemporary world. So we hope to be able to work with African nations very closely in order to render the Security Council representative with permanent members from the developing world, Latin America, Africa, south Asia as well as other new permanent members Japan and Germany who are partners and allies in this agenda. But this is not sufficient, we also need to make the council more transparent, accountable, less prone to adapt coercive action and more ready to exhaust possibilities offered by diplomacy, negotiations, and dialogue.
Capital: Brazil currently is the sixth largest economy in the world. What lessons can it give to other developing countries
Patriota: OOur reliance on our domestic market made it possible for us, not only to overcome difficulties of the international economic crisis; but also to lift 40 million Brazilians out of poverty allowing them to enter the middle class, where they started to consume. That’s one of the main reasons apart from our resources in energy and our ability to trade with the whole world that made us reach this level.