Jessica T. Mathews
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Editor in Chief
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
His Excellency Ambassador Celso Amorim
Minister of External Relations
Federative Republic of Brazil
Foreign Affairs Columnist
New York Times
Transcript by Federal News Service
JESSICA T. MATHEWS: Good afternoon. While our speakers are getting mic’ed up, let me welcome all of you on behalf of the Carnegie Endowment. I’m Jessica Mathews, president of the endowment.
We are marking our centennial this year, and so it’s naturally a time when you start to think about change. Over the years, this institution has moved to where its leaders thought was the center of gravity of international affairs. So between the world wars we were in Washington and Paris. And after the United Nations was founded, the headquarters moved to New York and the Paris office moved to Geneva. And after the end of the Cold War, we opened an office in Moscow. And as the era of globalization took hold, we began to open the offices that you see listed up there.
So this effort which we have launched to try to create what – the first truly global think tank – was precisely because of our conviction that the global balance of power was shifting – is shifting. We hear about the BRICs. We hear about Tom’s “flat world.” We hear about Fareed Zakaria’s – the “rise of the rest.”
Call it what you will, it’s pretty clear, I think, and we think here, that we’re looking at a century ahead in which a set of new actors will increasingly influence and perhaps determine the shape of events, not just the BRICs but many others as well, many with very large populations, very large geographies, rapid economic growth and increasing political appetite.
We’ve already seen on the economic front the move from the G-8 to the G-20-something. And we have seen more independent and assertive diplomacy from these new powers, as we saw with – excuse me – when Brazil and Turkey partnered together earlier this year to try to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.
So for us this is mother’s milk, this topic today. And we are delighted to be cohosting with Foreign Policy Magazine a discussion that could not be more timely, with three participants who could not be better informed.
So let me just thank, on behalf of Carnegie, all three of you for being with us and turn the microphone over to Susan Glasser, who is the editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine.
SUSAN GLASSER: Well, first of all I want to thank Jessica. It is just a terrific timing for us and a great honor to be cohosting this event today here at Carnegie, which is a real homecoming of sorts, for today, actually, we’re celebrating not only the launch of our “Global Thinkers” issue, which features both Tom Friedman and Minister Amorim, but also we’re celebrating Foreign Policy’s 40th anniversary.
And for much of its life, Foreign Policy had a wonderful home here at the Carnegie Endowment and with Jessica’s leadership, I think, it was able to not only survive decades of even bewildering change in the media world but to thrive in it.
So it’s particularly perfect that we would be marking the occasion in part here at Carnegie. And I’m really happy to be back, and great to see Jessica and everyone. And I’m not going to bore you with a long introduction to this incredible group that we’ve been able to pull together at the last minute. And thank you all for coming on short notice to this event, because I can’t imagine three people – and I say that – three people better suited to take us through, sort of, right at the heart of where the story is right now.
Jessica sort of already framed it for us. But I think to me this gets very much at what we were aiming for in our annual “Global Thinkers” issue, actually I said there, and I think it’s true, that 2010 may well be remembered as a key moment in which the “rise of the rest”, the advent of the multipolar era, really became clear.
And that’s why I think that hearing from Minister Amorim of Brazil today will be particularly instructive, and from Tom whose writings, really for well more than a decade, have steered us toward understanding the place that we’ve now found ourselves in. And I can’t think of anyone better to steer the conversation than David Rothkopf, who not only is a friend of Brazil, as I have found out recently, but he is a blogger on foreignpolicy.com. And he wears so many other hats, which he’s often identified by, that I won’t even enumerate all of them. But notable among them is that he is also a visiting fellow here at the Carnegie Endowment.
Minister Amorim, as I mentioned, is completing a second very successful tour as a foreign minister of Brazil. He has had many other distinguished appointments in the Brazilian diplomatic service, including serving as Brazil’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and to the United Nations. He is an uncommonly thoughtful and well-traveled foreign minister, it strikes me.
And I think we all perhaps might have something instructive to learn about diplomacy when it comes, as he put it to me when we spoke a couple months ago, from a country that has 10 neighbors and has not had a war in 140 years. This is a country that clearly has negotiating and diplomacy as a strong suit. So we’re happy to welcome him.
Tom Friedman, all of you know him not only for his New York Times column but also for his many best-selling books which take us always, it seems, ahead of the curve. So I personally am looking forward to the next one to figure out what “ahead of the curve” means. And David will steer the conversation today, so I’ll leave it at that. And thank you again for coming.
DAVID ROTHKOPF: Thanks. Thanks very much, Susan. And it’s a real pleasure to be here today with Tom and with Celso and with all of you to have what I hope will be a conversation which we’ll start here on the stage and then extend out into the audience so that we can bring all of you into it.
You know, it’s an exciting opportunity because, as Foreign Policy reports here, we’re sitting here on the stage with two of the world’s top 100 leading global thinkers, or as I like to think of it, three of the world’s leading global thinkers. (Laughter.) But I’m just starting lobbying now. (Laughter.) We’ll see how this all turns out.
In any event, this is a subject that gets talked about a lot. And in “think-tank row” here, at any given minute you could fire a gun and hit somebody having a discussion about emerging global powers and so forth. And sometimes I think you probably should fire a gun and do that, but you know, there really aren’t people who can speak to this with the kind of authority of the two gentlemen seated to my right. And what I’d like to do is begin with a question or two for each of them and then I’m going to open it up to you. So if you’ve got questions or thoughts, please, please prepare to jump right in.
I’d like to start with Celso. And I’d like to talk about what I think is – I’d like you to talk a little bit about what’s a kind of remarkable journey, because when you began this tour as foreign minister, a lot of these things that we hear about – BRICs, emerging major powers, BASIC – all these other things – they were not common parlance. People weren’t talking about them.
And some of the things that you did really brought these to the fore, because I don’t think that I saw these ideas get real traction until the Cancun WTO meeting where you and the Indians got together and all of a sudden showed the world that cooperation among emerging powers really could counterbalance the established powers.
And certainly it’s continued through until recently, where the initiative that you and the Turks undertook – well, it ruffled some feathers here in Washington perhaps – also illustrated to the world that there is not one path to a solution that passes through Washington, that there are other kinds of paths. And I’m just wondering, how much of this is circumstance? How much of this is a concerted effort among major powers to rework the global balance of power?
CELSO AMORIM: Well, thank you very much. I want to thank the Carnegie Endowment and I want to thank Susan for the magnificent interview because there were magnificent questions which helped me to answer.
Let me come to quickly to – it’s an honor also being sitting with both of you intellectuals and thinkers. I must say, I myself never thought of myself as a thinker. I think – well, of course I think – (laughter) – but I think I think, as Descartes said, but anyway – I see myself –
MR. ROTHKOPF: Is that what he said?
MR. AMORIM: Or something like that. I think – (Chuckles).
MR. ROTHKOPF: Therefore –
MR. AMORIM: – therefore I exist. But I always think, I would say rather, I negotiate, therefore I exist, so I – I see myself rather as a negotiator.
But you know, negotiating requires some thinking. And how much it was a concerted effort, how much it was a strategy, how much too circumstantial is difficult to say – difficult to say. I have been minister before for a short period, one-and-a-half year, and then I’ve been ambassador to Geneva and the United Nations.
So I had some thoughts. And I’m sure that President Lula also had some thoughts. And from the first moment I thought I had a great affinity to President Lula, and maybe I would be able to spell out some of his thinking in, let us say, specifically diplomatic terms.
And I just give you one example that somehow it was present in my mind from the first or the second day in office. And the second day in office, to be precise, I received the minister of South Africa, Nkosazana Zuma – very interesting woman who had been minister of health before who’s now minister of interior, I believe, in South Africa. Ex-wife of President Zuma.
And I – she came to me and said that it would be important to have a new group of developing countries – a group of eight or nine countries. Well, I remember that we had had in the past and continued to have something like the G-15 or some other groups – the G-77 – and I know – I had known from my own diplomatic experience that there were limitations.
So I propose to her – because people speak a lot of BRICs – and I’ll speak now of something else – and I said, well, let us do something simple. Let us do something between India, Brazil and South Africa, because here you have three countries which are three great democracies, three multiracial and multicultural societies, one in each continent of the developing world.
And I’m mentioning that because this kind of relation that started at that time – the second day in office, to be quite precise – well, then of course she had a visit to India to consult with the Indian minister, then the Indian minister had a visit to Brazil later on. And we decided to use that meeting to have – to found this new group, the heads of which has now had already four summits and, I don’t know, eight or 10 ministerial meetings apart from all the other civil society and other things.
And I think this was very important, because it – this was already important even for what you mention, which I agree with you – it’s probably, let us say, the landmark of Brazilian diplomacy – more on the economic field as maybe the Tehran thing might be in the political field – the Cancun meeting.
In the Cancun meeting, Brazil and others like India, South Africa, Argentina in our region, many others – but because we were the coordinators; Brazil was the coordinator. We created the G-20. Now nobody speaks of this G-20 because there is the other G-20 of the leaders on their financial matters. But this G-20 was able for the first time to say no to an agreement that would only cater to the interests of European Union and United States.
And I must say to the defensive interests of the United States and European Union. If it were the progressive interests that could still probably be fine. But it was the contrary. It was, how can we avoid things that would cause problem at home? And they had come to some sort of agreement that they had wished to impose on the rest of us.
And we created this G-20 that started in Geneva and evolved in the meeting in Cancun – and this was, I can tell you, it was a formidable battle at home, because we were very much criticized – how can – what do we have with Indian? Brazil should align with the United States. Or Brazil should align with Europe. Or I suppose the Indians have the same thing. We should align with Europe because they protect their agriculture, it’s more or less our concern.
Well, anyway, I’ll spare you the details. We were able to create the group. And it was a big battle not only in the negotiating rooms but a big battle with the media, because the media would always, always, give the version presented by the European Union or the United States.
And I think we were able – I wouldn’t say we were able to – all your special penetration of facts that made you able to perceive that. But in any case I wouldn’t say that we won the battle, but we were noticed. We were noticed and we were noticed by not being obstructionist but by proposing something.
So we want an agreement, but we want an agreement that is really a progressive agreement, an agreement that eliminates subsidies, that makes trade freer for everyone – not only for the rich – and that’s what we did. And there were moments in which, for instance, the United States or Europe were – especially the United States, I must say, because European disregard is more political when it comes to dealing with poorer countries – no necessarily in their objectives but at least in tactics.
But for instance, Bob Zoellick, my good friend today, I think also he got surprised. He was very surprised –
MR. ROTHKOPF: Everybody – well, not everybody’s gonna be – (inaudible, audio interference).
MR. AMORIM: Don’t tell me about the marquis in the – before the French Revolution. (Laughter.) Everyone was made a marquis, then it became a shame to be a marquis, but it was even a bigger shame not to be a marquis. But anyway –
So in any case, Bob Zoellick was surprised when he saw the Group of 20 in a single room. And instead of each one speaking, we had each country with one subject but with the same line. So this is what happened. And of course, two days after that I had the honor of having an article in the Financial Times by Bob Zoellick in which the name of Brazil appeared five times – not very flattering.
But he’s a very intelligent man, and one of the characteristics of an intelligent man is to see – I mean, don’t need to admit your errors, but you can see the future and you can see – and so he called me. I was in Buenos Aires. I thought he was going to speak to me about the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which was another nightmare at the time.
He spoke one minute about the FTAA and he spoke about 59 minutes about how Brazil, the United States, India and other countries could re-launch the Doha Round. And we did. We did re-launch. I mean, we have problems now, but that’s a different matter.
And so that’s how it appeared. And it was a battle in the – I just mentioned that so that you – the only moment in which I think I have to show some cleverness was by the ending of the meeting, because when we went to see the pressroom where people would be there, it was all reserved already for Pascal Larny, who was the representative of the European Union, for Bob Zoellick, for the director general of the WTO, for maybe some Canadian or whatever.
And I said, no, you’ll know what I’ll do? I’ll not go to – and there was still a formal meeting set. Nothing will happen in the formal meeting. So I go before all of them. And so I went there, so I was the first to break the news, so to say. So in a way, even if they had different versions after that, at least our version – and it was not me alone. It was me plus other ministers of the G-20. Our version was there.
But the point I want to make is that this first meeting with the South African minister in the second day I was in office had a lot to do with the G-20, with the confidence building among developing countries. And that’s what permitted us to change. And I think this – we did forever – the pattern of negotiation in WTO.
When I was – I was ambassador before. And when we spoke about Quads that was United States, European – at the time the European community – Canada and Japan. During this whole process of negotiation, you may have read – those who follow WTO – I mean, who have not enough imagination and follow the WTO will see it referenced to “G-4”. G-4 is United States, European Union, India and Brazil. That’s a big change forever. Now China got into that.
MR. ROTHKOPF: It was nice of you to let them in. I don’t – what I wonder is, what were you doing the first day in office? (Laughter.)
MR. AMORIM: Receiving greetings. I was in the receiving line behind President Lula. That’s why I say the second day of office.
MR. ROTHKOPF: I really think, and it’s important for people to understand, this was major sea change, a real landmark in this process.
But you know, conversations about this have been taking place for a long time. And I’ve known Tom now for almost 20 years. And we got to know each other in the Clinton administration when back then we had this initiative – Big Emerging Markets Initiative. We were going to go out and we focused on the 10 BEMS. Right? That was the acronym before BRICs became a more successful acronym. But it was one of the hundred leading acronyms of the 1990s.
In any event, we started talking about it then. And since then you wrote a couple of books about it in which you talk about the rise of these emerging powers and the world becoming flat and India and China. And yet every time I pick up the newspaper I see the Brazilians and the Turks proposing something with regard to Iran. And the United States is shocked. I see the United States going to Seoul, Korea, to dictate to the Chinese how things are going to turn out.
We’re going to Copenhagen to drive the thing forward. And it doesn’t work out the way they want.
And they’re shocked. Okay, we’ve been talking about this here for 20 years. You’ve written numerous books. You’ve gone on extensive book tours. How come the United States seems to repeatedly be shocked by a phenomenon that has been happening – happening in public, happening in major ways – for two decades?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: I don’t know, David. I haven’t really – I have to think about that, because when you say we’re shocked, we do – we have bumped up, if you look at Copenhagen, if you look at some of these other things, trying to think the Iran initiative as well –what I’m trying to separate it out is yes, we were shocked by what happened at Copenhagen. But nothing happened at Copenhagen.
We were shocked by the Brazilian-Turkish initiative toward Iran, but nothing happened ultimately out of that initiative. So I mean, yes, we were shocked for a day by these things, but I’m trying to separate the wheat from the chaff here, what’s real and what’s Memorex.
I mean, it’s easy to write the headline that people did after Copenhagen: China stole the show. India stole the show. But I was in Copenhagen. It was the worst meeting I’ve ever been to. (Laughter.) Anywhere, anytime, okay?
MR. ROTHKOPF: And that’s saying something.
MR. FRIEDMAN: That’s a lifetime of OPEC meetings, Arab-Israeli summits, START negotiations – (laughter). Nothing happened in Copenhagen because there was no underlying consensus for something to happen – something real. Not a single molecule of carbon was threatened by anything that happened in Copenhagen, okay? (Laughter.)
I’m afraid – no, it really is true. And because there was nothing at the scale of the problem that emerged from Copenhagen – there was – Copenhagen was a gravity-free zone. Hillary Clinton stood up and she promised $100 billion, I believe, to the developing world as part of the arrangement there. They have not and will not see a dime of that.
I would say the same about the Turkish-Brazilian initiative. It made a lot of headlines. It’s made for great columns – America sidelined – but there was no agreement. The Iranians are still in a box. They’re in a bigger box now than they were before precisely because the diplomacy of the United States at the United Nations involving Russia and China. Basically, that was the key thing that actually moved that along.
So I’m trying to separate out here what’s real and what’s Memorex.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Let me just take it a step further. I suspect you may want to respond to some of this. But let me just take one step further. And that is –
MR. AMORIM: You can tell me what’s Memorex?
MR. FRIEDMAN: (Chuckles.)
MR. ROTHKOPF: It’s a television advertisement.
MR. FRIEDMAN: It was an advertisement for a –
MR. AMORIM: Sorry for –
MR. FRIEDMAN: A tape, that’s right. What’s not –
MR. ROTHKOPF: Video tape.
MR. FRIEDMAN: No, no, it’s not your fault. (Chuckles).
MR. ROTHKOPF: No, it’s –
MR. FRIEDMAN: You didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. (Laughter.)
MR. ROTHKOPF: But it – there are two ways to look at what you – at those events. And one is to say that nothing happened. And the other is to say that the absence of things happened was for a reason, and that the alliance that thought that it was going to push Copenhagen through – which was a trans-Atlantic alliance – ran into a trans-Pacific reality that didn’t go along with it.
And so while nothing may have happened, something happened. There was an absence of action on that. And certainly there have been circumstances where, you know, in the Seoul meetings where the United States goes in and says, well, we’re going to go and we’re going to talk down the Chinese in terms of currency policy, and the Chinese get the Europeans together and they say, no, we’re going to talk to you about your currency policy. And so something did happen there.
And I would argue, even if the Turkish-Brazilian or, as I should probably better put it, the Brazilian-Turkish initiative with regard to Iran didn’t actually produce a sea change in those negotiations. The presentation of this alternative path, the recognition that other people could be getting together and so forth does have a consequence.
And so it may not have had consequence in that moment, but what I’m saying is that there seem to be new players at the table. And we don’t seem to be engaging that in a terribly effective way just yet.
MR. FRIEDMAN: And that may be true, David. I’m trying to think of other examples where it is. I guess whether – whether you’re talking about Brazilian diplomacy or American diplomacy, ultimately it’s been a long time, I think, since America could dictate to the world. I don’t remember when the last time was, but I think it’s been a while.
So none of this strikes me as, like, radically new today. I think it’s something that’s been evolving for a long time. There’s been a shift in the balance of power. But I think Brazilian diplomacy’s only successful, American diplomacy’s only successful to the extent that we can leverage the major powers in the world to do hard things.
And it seems to me that, that didn’t happen at Copenhagen. It hasn’t happened at a lot of G-7 and G-20 meetings for a while, that the United States – or an alternative to the United States – has truly leveraged a coalition to do something really hard – not just to block us or us to block you. I’m talking about to take the world in a particular direction it needs to go.
And so that’s – that’s really how I would look at it.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Do you want to respond?
MR. AMORIM: Yes. Let me say not to sound defensive or try to defend an agreement that wouldn’t be of much use – but let me just mention to you that coming back to the WTO, we have not come to a conclusion yet.
But if we ever come, which I hope we will, and I notice now that President Obama seems to be a little more interested after the mid-term election and that’s of course a good omen – but if we ever come to a conclusion, you can be sure that the conclusion will be a much more balanced one, one that will be much more likely to be accepted not by Brazil and India only but by poor African countries because of the action that we took. So it’s not so ineffective as you say.
Coming back to the – monetary – (inaudible) – is not my specialty – I think nothing is my specialty – but in India’s case there was a change in the quota system of the IMF which is not insignificant. The BRIC countries taken together almost have a veto power, which I don’t think they should exercise, by the way, but that shows that there’s a change – an effective change in the balance of power.
Whether that can solve the problems of the world’s crisis is a different matter. But I hope – I hope – that all these discussions that you are mentioning and in which we were not involved before because they were discussions about – only about the G-7 – one must say it’s the G-7 because Russia was there because of the nuclear weapon, not because of their economic weight.
So these discussions would not be possibly successful without the presence of India, Brazil, China, South Africa, so on and so forth. So now we have a perspective of discussing, how should we coordinate our foreign-exchange policies? Will it be possible or not? I don’t know.
Many things that seemed impossible 10 years ago became possible today.
If anyone would tell me 10 years ago that the G-8 was no longer – the G-7 no longer the primary economic – the primary economic forum but that would be a G-20 I’d say you were mad, you know? If someone would say, well, it’s no longer the Quad but the G-4 – now with China the G-5 that’s really the nucleus of the negotiations in the WTO, I say, you’ll be mad because I’ve been there before. I was ambassador to Geneva twice.
So it’s not as simple as the other thing. Even Copenhagen – you know – I really knew it was a big failure, but it was a big failure of organization. That was not our fault, by the way, that was –
MR. ROTHKOPF: Whose fault was it?
MR. AMORIM: The fault of those who organized it or whatever. But I would say there was again a big change with – in spite of all the grandstanding, for instance, of Europe, the final negotiation which could bring to something – it didn’t because of the mistakes in organization – but still can, it still can – the final negotiation was between the United States on the one side and so-called BASIC – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – on the other side. By the way, it’s the first acronym in Portuguese, because if it would be in English it would not be “BASIC”, it would be something like “BSAIC” (ph) or something like that. (Laughter.)
So this was not something – and the Europeans themselves were astonished that after having – putting all that show and, I mean, all those big speeches and so on, it was the United States and the BASIC. And it was not only with China because China needed Brazil. China needed India. China needed South Africa to have the negotiations. And we did negotiate. Language, for instance, may be useless now because we didn’t have the final accord because it was done in such a way that some countries like Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia and some African countries were outside.
But this was a different method. So we came to an agreement on one of the most sensitive points, which was how you verify the commitments. And to say that not a carbon molecule was saved, it’s not true because as far as – Brazil is concerned, for instance, we took our commitments, which is reducing 36 to 39 percent in relation to what would be the baseline and is already Brazilian law, irrespective of what happens around the world.
MR. FRIEDMAN: But it seems you would have done that anyways.
MR. AMORIM: Well, I don’t know.
MR. FRIEDMAN: You would.
MR. AMORIM: Well, I don’t know. You were saying that and maybe we would, which would be all to our credit. But in any case, we decided to present in Copenhagen. And unlike some Europeans who said, well, we can do 30 but we’ll do 20 because others are not moving, we did what we promised. So that’s it.
And if you want me to talk about Tehran, I can talk later. Don’t talk –
MR. ROTHKOPF: No, no, no – Let’s switch the subject to Iran for a second. And I’ll pose a question to you, but I’m going to follow up immediately to you. Iran is also interesting in this regard, you know, and Tom, nobody has been following the Middle East more closely than you have over the course of the past number of years. But you wrote “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, not “From Tehran to Beijing”.
But all of a sudden, you’ve got a situation in Iran where it’s very unlikely that it’s going to be solved without the involvement of the Chinese and the cooperation of the Chinese. The Russians are involved. The Indians were involved in terms of oil and gas. All of a sudden, the Middle East, which was never – I mean, you know, there was a Cold War dynamic there, but it was never a place where all these forces came into play – came into play there.
And so what I would like to do is I would like to talk about, in a second – but the first thing I would like to do it is I would like to turn to you, because I think there was so much static around this issue in Washington that there are some misconceptions about the intent or the objective. And I just wondered if there was anything you wanted to clarify or if there was anything you wanted to say, being here in Washington, talking about the deal.
MR. AMORIM: Well, first I would say that we didn’t invent the deal. The deal was actually presented by the Atomic Agency, based on a proposal by the United States which, in itself, was a response to an Iranian request. I mean, it’s a long story, I don’t want me to tell the whole story, but Iran asked something that it is entitled to ask, to receive supplies of fuel for the TRR, the Research Reactor.
I think the – as I say, for the P5-plus-1, cleverly thought, well, instead of selling to you, let me do something which is smarter, and instead of selling, I’ll exchange for the light enriched uranium that you have, so I’ll take some. So that was the basic proposal. And I had been following this question for some time personally, because I was involved also in the panels on Iraq here while I was ambassador to the United Nations, was a friend of ElBaradei, a friend of Solana’s, so I was following that.
And I saw in that proposal both – in parallel, President Obama comes to President Lula and helps – and asks President Lula to help in having Iran respond to his gesture of reaching out, so to say. And he even says something, it’s good that you’re a friend, or that you have relations with someone that I can talk – something like that, something to that effect.
Well, you have these two things in parallel: you have an opportunity, you have a request and you have the fact that Brazil was going to become a non-permanent member of Security Council and members of Security Council, whether they are permanent or non, have as their responsibility to contribute to peace and security. And we were also told by many interlocutors – I don’t need to name them now – but anyway, many interlocutors, to say, well, here is a chance, because for the first time – and that’s precisely what I saw – there is a proposal in which we are, in a way, tacitly accepting that Iran enriches uranium.
And that was the main cause for Iran to refuse every other proposal that had been made before, the “freeze-for-freeze” or whatever it is. So there was a chance. We saw that chance. And why would Brazil and Turkey – by the way, we didn’t arrange with Turkey beforehand. It was a coincidence. We were moving and they were moving and then we found out that we were doing the same thing, so we said, why don’t we do it together?
Why we did that? Because it was not to help Iran. I mean, there is a total misperception that we did that to be good with Iran. It was quite the contrary. President Ahmadinejad would be very happy to go to Brazil, have the red carpet of a head of state – which we would have anyway, because we receive many heads of state, irrespective of their ideas, just like the president of Israel had some days before him, so – and not touch on this difficult subject.
It was our initiative to talk on the subject, because I thought it was impossible to have a working relation with Iran without addressing the nuclear issue. And we did that on the basis of the agreement that existed. So anyway, I don’t want to make a long story short and I don’t want to be too long in a story, but to make a long story short, what I would like to say is that we acted on the basis of the preconditions that were set by the P5-plus-1, plus the Atomic Agency.
Nobody believed that Iran would accept these preconditions. Of course, we were aware that there were – existed other concerns like the 20 percent enrichment and like the inventory. But the preconditions were there – 1200 kilos, the place outside Iran and the time immediately. Well, Iran accepted these things which even a fortnight before didn’t seem so likely, even to me, who traveled there so often.
Why they did that, I don’t know. Why they could listen to Turkey and to Brazil – and that maybe has to do with your point, I think, of the changing and parallel reason. I think to some extent with your negative point, that maybe countries like Brazil and Turkey, or India or South Africa, for that matter, can be listened in places where maybe the P5-plus-1 very rich country cannot be heard, because they speak in an imposing way.
So that’s – and you said, okay, the United States got its way in the Security Council. It’s true, but you know, I am not a naïve person, and I have been – I mean, after the WTO, people – everyone thinks I’m the contrary. So I don’t know. I’ve heard some people say now that I’m naïve. I’m even very happy, because – anyway, but I saw – I’ve been present in the Security Council, I followed the Iraq situation, I followed many other – Kosovo situation – many others. I never saw such kind of bargaining as it happened in relation – and it’s all in the WikiLeaks, by the way, also – the kind of bargaining that happened in relation to Iran.
It was not exchanging, let us say, a strategic concern for another strategic concern, which maybe is part of the game, or a principle like nonintervention vis-à-vis another principle, human rights or whatever. No. It was exchanging support for sanctions for specific exemptions for some firms. So in my opinion, what you got there, I don’t know. I hope the P5-plus-1 get it right now, and I hope, because as I said, we don’t claim copyright, and we hope for the best. And it will be based on the same kind of agreement that we discussed, and probably it has to be put update.
But let me say in relation to this, what you got with the sanctions is to make Iran more dependent on some countries. Is that good for the United States? I have my doubts. It’s not for me to judge. I’m not the policymaker in the United States, but it could – if you talk to Iran now, whom they depend more? Precisely the countries for which specific concessions are made for them to support the sanctions. So I don’t know, that’s what I see, and I think it still will come to fruition. You know, we said it come to nothing, but you know, in history – and I understand, the world is flat, but history is not.
So at some point, these things will come back the same way – I mean, totally different subject that Zoellick four months later calling Brazil everything that he could, he said even that you should negotiate with the – (inaudible) – and so on, and he called me four months later and proposes a scheme for negotiation.
MR. ROTHKOPF: As I said, you’ve been following this part of the world for a long time. You’ve been seeing that –
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, there’s sort of a lot there. You know, I’d say a couple things. If it does come back, I don’t think it’ll be because of the logic of the agreement. It’ll come back because Iran is under so much pressure from the sanctions that it reaches for this agreement. That would be the first thing I would say.
Secondly, I would say to the minister –
MR. ROTHKOPF: How likely do you think that is? I mean, do you think there’s enough pressure on the sanctions to do that?
MR. FRIEDMAN: Not particularly likely, not at $80-a-barrel oil. At $40-a-barrel oil, I think there would definitely be enough, but not at an $80-a-barrel oil.
MR. ROTHKOPF: So interestingly enough, you think a weak-dollar policy actually undermines the ability to achieve this agreement.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Yeah, I mean that’s – I mean, it’s indirect. I think a weak energy policy undermines it also. So I’m sure – and I’m not party to what Obama whispered to Lula, what Hillary Clinton whispered to –
MR. AMORIM: I am –
MR. FRIEDMAN: I know, that’s what I’m saying, that’s why – so I – and I’ve heard this from the Turks and whatnot and I can only accept what you say. And I don’t accept it face-value what they say. So I’m sure that there was a lot more winking and encouraging on their part than they now say, and whatnot. And so I give you that.
For me, I’ll be very honest with you: It’s just a kind of personal thing. The picture of Lula and Erdoğan raising the arms as if he had just won the world heavyweight championship of a leader of a country who had just killed hundreds of his people and suppressed the democratic expression of millions of Iranians who wanted nothing more than the right to elect their leader that Brazilians and Turks have, I have to tell you, just rubbed me the wrong way.
MR. AMORIM: I read your article.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Yeah, I bet you did. (Chuckles.)
MR. AMORIM: And I remember – of course I did – (inaudible, cross talk). I also have in mind what Kofi Annan used to say and what I believe President Obama said – you have to discuss with your enemies – I mean, with your adversaries.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Oh, no, absolutely. Absolutely. I’m just not sure you celebrate them in public, that’s all –
MR. AMORIM: I mean, if you only talk to your friends, what’s new –
MR. FRIEDMAN: Discussing is one thing, but – (inaudible, cross talk) –
MR. AMORIM: Well, if you had been in a 20-hour negotiation – and after 20-hour negotiation – don’t think it was an easy peace, and that we went there to please Iran. After 20-hour negotiation, we got the agreement that was exactly what was asked from us. We said, we were victorious, so let us do that.
MR. FRIEDMAN: (Chuckles.) I say – (inaudible, cross talk) –
MR. AMORIM: But I agree with you, man, I can tell you –
MR. FRIEDMAN: (Inaudible, cross talk) – I mean, on the other point yeah.
MR. AMORIM: I can see your point.
MR. ROTHKOPF: What do you think of WikiLeaks? (Laughter.)
MR. AMORIM: Well, first of all, I must say, I’m not so excited as most of you are. Most of the things that I read there either I knew already or had surmised at least or are a bit irrelevant. So you know, they may be interesting for gossiping what is the impression about the – I don’t know –
MR. ROTHKOPF: I don’t know, it looked to me like – reading those cables, it was a prior administration, but it looked to me like the idea was, well, Itamaraty is over here and it’s a bit of a problem, so we’ll deal with the police, because they really care about the terrorists more than Itamaraty, they’re being resistant.
MR. AMORIM: well, everybody likes to bypass Itamaraty – (laughter) – I mean, in trade matters, in defense matters, in environmental matters, because we are the guardians of national sovereignty in Brazil, no? (Laughter.) Well, yeah. We are the ones who are responsible for the fact that Brazil had exactly that characteristic, that it was a nation – we had 10 neighbors, and we haven’t had a war in 140 years.
So it’s – people like to bypass – it’s very easy, because someone may be attracted because they can sell poultry or the others can be attracted because they can sell this or that or obtain that or that advantage. It’s up for us to see the whole picture – help the president see the whole picture, too, in a better way.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Okay, I’m going to open it up to questions in one minute, but I want to ask you one last question.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Sure.
MR. ROTHKOPF: I know you’ve been down to Brazil a lot, you’ve been down a lot to the region. Obviously, you’ve been to China a lot. One of the things that’s interesting is that China’s now number-one trading partner of Brazil, number-one investment partner of Brazil. The whole economic tilt of the region has shifted towards China, and that seems to me to be something of some considerable not just economic, but strategic significance – the way the world works. And I’m just wondering, what do you think of that significance, and is it fully appreciated here?
What’s going on?
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, as I think about it from a Brazilian perspective, David, I would celebrate it if Brazil was selling computers, microchips, software to China and China was selling computers, microchips and software of its own back. But as I understand it, and maybe the minister will correct me, this is weighted heavily – not exclusively, but heavily, Brazil’s natural resources going to China, where China applies its knowledge to them and manufactures them into finished products that it sells to itself and the rest of the world.
So it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve got this expansion of Brazilian-Chinese trade. You have a massive expansion of Chinese trade with Africa and all of Latin America for the same reason. I think one of the great things that’s going on in Brazil, and I’m always impressed when I’m there, is that it is a knowledge economy. It isn’t just natural resources. And it’s one of the reasons I’d be very optimistic about Brazil.
But I think this China-Brazil sort of axis you point to on trade, I’d want to look at the content and study it before I somehow celebrate it as – you know, China is a vacuum cleaner for resources all over the world now, and it’s the number-one trading partner of India today as well. So that’s – but again, the Indians are quite concerned of the content of the trade.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Do you worry, given the situation that exists right now, that Brazil’s stock market is now the second-highest capital stock market in the world, land prices are going up because you’ve got these big events happening, commodity prices are going up because of demand? And it feels a little fizzy to some people, it feels a little bit like there may be a little bit of a bubble quality of what’s going on. Does that worry you at all? Well, you’re going to say no, but what do you really think? (Laughter.)
MR. FRIEDMAN: What’ll it say in the WikiLeaks? (Chuckles.)
MR. AMORIM: Someone asked me if I would make my old documents public. No, but I’ll make my thoughts public. (Laughter.) They’re probably more important even than the documents. And no, I would say – well, yes, it worries, what you mention, the fact that our exports to China are very much concentrated on what people used to call primary goods. But let us first – let us qualify it a little bit. It’s very simplistic.
MR. FRIEDMAN: I know it’s not supposed to – yeah, yeah.
MR. AMORIM: Because many look at Brazilian agriculture today – it’s not just as it used to be 60 years ago, in which you have raw materials that are exported. There is a lot of knowledge leading to that. I mean, 30 or 40 years ago, everyone would say that soybean would not grow in Brazil because soybean was a temperate product, and now we are the second-largest exporter in the world. We are not the first because of your subsidies. I mean, when the subsidies are away, we’ll be probably – (inaudible, cross talk).
MR. FRIEDMAN: (Off mic.)
MR. AMORIM: I mean, whatever, we’ll probably be the first. By the way, you are not – we are not selling to the United States, but the United States are not buying from much – either from others. I mean, take a country like Mexico that suffered the crisis into a much larger – and that I’m not saying, I’m not saying anything against Mexico – that’s the words of President Calderon, that he suffered a lot because they were too attached to the U.S. economy. What you want does not depend – to change one dependency for another. We want to diversify our economy.
But I would like to mention to you also, it’s true that we sell more manufactured goods to the United States, but you are not buying much anyway. And President Obama said, don’t rely on the United States, so we have to take his word seriously. So 47 percent of our manufactured goods are being sold to Latin America and Caribbean and basically to South America.
So the greatest part of the story is not that China became our first trading partner. The greatest part of the story is that these last months – and maybe for the whole year – Argentina is becoming our second-largest partner – largest client. On the other hand, the United States has its highest surplus with Brazil. So maybe you can – highest in the world, higher surpluses, straight surpluses with Brazil.
So maybe you can do something if you eliminate your subsidies for soybean, eliminate the double tariff on ethanol. These would certainly help our – increase our relation and diminish our dependency on China. So think geopolitically. You will be very glad.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Well, first of all, I don’t know how I became responsible – (laughter).
MR. AMORIM: The problem – no, the problem is that the people – no, I’ll say something now maybe more broadly, if I can: The problem is, the people who do trade in the United States don’t think geopolitically. They are not mandated to think geopolitically, and that’s why we did not close the Doha Round – the main reason, not the only one.
MR. ROTHKOPF: You will be interested to know that the political winds have been shifting just in the past couple of days in the United States, and it seems that on both the right and the left, there is a move against ethanol subsidies in the United States. So we’ll see how that goes.
MR. AMORIM: I have heard that story before. (Laughter.)
MR. ROTHKOPF: Well, I’m just telling you. I’m not defending –
MR. AMORIM: That’s good, that would be great, that would be great. A lot of tough technology, then. By the way, it’s not purely raw material. A lot of knowledge, a lot of knowledge.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Sure, I’ve been to all the complexes.
MR. AMORIM: Our agriculture is knowledge-intensive.
MR. ROTHKOPF: All right. So we’re going to have some questions and we’ve got one hour to go – no, we’ve got 55 minutes to go, and we will start with Dr. Sweig.
Q: Thank you very much. Minister Amorim, welcome to Washington. I’m Julia Sweig, and just to pick up on your comment about geopolitical – thinking geopolitically, I noticed that about a couple of days after President Raul Castro announced at the end of August, early September, a series of economic reforms related to an emerging small private sector in Cuba, you sent a letter and followed up by a visit, making an offer for Brazil to provide technical and other sort of assistance to Cuba as needed to grow its emerging private sector.
I’m wondering what your advice is to those of us in Washington about how to think geopolitically with respect to American policy toward Cuba, and specifically, what consequences do you see would be – we would see in Latin American were the United States really to open a new chapter in its policy towards Cuba? What would be the kind of – how would that be seen in South America, in Brazil, in Venezuela, in Colombia, but the ALBA countries – what would be the geopolitical consequences of that kind of move?
MR. AMORIM: Well, let me speak for Brazil only, but I think a lot would apply to the rest of Latin America, as well. But let me say, we would applaud if you have – probably, we might lose something commercial, because it’s the United States, a big competitor. But still, we would applaud. We would applaud because that would bring more stability to the region. That would bring more equanimity and justice to the region. That would also help the Cubans in their own process of reform.
I mean, I have to be very careful with the words that I use, because if I use “reform” it’s okay, if I use “transition” it’s not okay. So I mean, anyway – but in any case, it is a process of reform. I mean, if you have – if you are taking out 500 people from the public service and then putting them outside, this is a big step. And that’s why we offered our help, especially in the area of small and medium enterprise and also the experience that we have in microcredit, things like that, so that these people would be self-employed or make small cooperatives and things like that, because they’ll need taxes, after all.
So this is – we have a big experience in that, because Brazilian economy is in many ways a mixed economy. So I think we can help on that. Of course, I should also mention to you, although that we don’t, let us say, put that in a loudspeaker, we have no subject that is a taboo in our bilateral dialogue, and the Cubans know that. And we talk about everything, including the Cuban-American relations. And if we can help at any point, we’ll be more than happy.
In spite of the, let us say, the rebuff that we received in relation to Iran, we’ll do it. Maybe someone then will say, well, that was naïve, that’s nothing – (laughter) – it’s being naïve that you change history. I think that the very intelligent people tend to be skeptical. They don’t help change history.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Tom, you’ve been studying U.S. foreign policy for a while. You’re probably the most influential foreign-policy commentator that we’ve got here in the United States. How do you think the embargo’s doing so far? We’re only 50 years into it, so I don’t want to jump to a conclusion – (laughter).
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, as lab tests go, David, as lab tests go, I think the results are in. And it’s farcical. We all know why it’s maintained. It’s because of political considerations for the electoral votes of the state of Florida. It has no basis in reality, logic, economics or geopolitics. It surely has to be listed among the 10 stupidest things in American foreign policy, definitely in the top five.
MR. ROTHKOPF: That’s impressive, and that’s quite a list, by the way, those top five. (Laughter.) Next, next, yes.
Q: Good afternoon, my name is Aaron Canelli (ph). For the minister, thank you for coming. Also, I guess – (inaudible, cross talk) –
MR. ROTHKOPF: There’s a microphone right on your right side there.
Q: My question is kind of following on some of the previous questions, and that is, what is your general attitude toward the U.S. as it relates to the overall rise of Brazil and other partners over the past decades?
I guess the analogy I think of is, if you have a bunch of kids on the school yard and one year, there are a couple of kids who are kind of small and the big kids kind of maybe don’t give them much credit. Then they get bigger, and in a couple of years they’re kind of as big as you – and all of a sudden you have a new respect for or fear towards, et cetera. And I think some of the tensions that you’re talking about results from that. Now you’re sitting in a situation where Brazil has much better kind of macroeconomic situation, employment, economic growth, et cetera than the U.S. in sort of the near-term future.
Do you view that Brazil’s future can move forward without the U.S. as a strong country, or is it important to you to – do you think it’s important for the world that the U.S. continue to be a vibrant place, or can you just kind of move on with China and India and others? Maybe it’s an obvious question, but how do you continue to –
MR. ROTHKOPF: Even if it’s an obvious question, you don’t have to give an obvious answer.
MR. AMORIM: I will give an obvious answer. Of course it is very important for the world that the economy of the United States continues to be vibrant, but it’s obvious also that the United States should understand, as it was already pointed out here, not by me but by others, that the world is a different world.
And whatever you think about the Iranian – the Tehran declaration or whatever you think about our efforts in climate, I think there is no way in which the United States can impose its will. But it’s also, there is no way that you can change things without the participation of the United States.
So I think the big challenge is not to replace one leadership by another or to oppose the United States. The big challenge is really to develop partnerships in which the United States – not only the United States, by the way, but Europe and other developed countries can have the – I would say, the humility to see that they can also learn from us, as we can learn from you. I mean, there are many things – I always say, you know, Brazil used to claim that we are a racial democracy, we used to claim in the past.
But if you look at Brazil and you look for evidence of the racial democracy, it’s too difficult to see. So I remember we never had segregation in the way that the United States had, but we had subtle forms of racial discrimination which we are now more and more overcoming. And I think we have a lot to learn from the United States. I mean, when I was promoted to ambassador, because I am a career diplomat, when I was promoted to ambassador there was one woman, one woman who was ambassador.
Now, the other day, a magazine was discussing who might be a successor, and he said, well, there are not many woman ambassadors, but they quoted six in very crucial positions like the United Nations here, the United Nations in Geneva. So these are changes.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Also president of the country, right?
MR. AMORIM: By the way. (Laughter.) So but we are learning also, in many respects, from the United States. But there are many things also that you have to have the humility to learn from us, including that ethanol from sugarcane is much more economic and energy-efficient than corn-based ethanol. (Laughter.)
MR. ROTHKOPF: That’s only obvious to anyone who has ever looked into ethanol for five minutes. Yes.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, again, I agree with a lot of what the minister just said, and I think that where there’s a little bit of tension and disagreement here, and we’ll go back to the Iran story, is, man, speaking personally, I welcome Brazil’s rise. I welcome Turkey’s rise. I think that speaking just as one American citizen, I know we can’t and don’t want to try to stabilize and try to manage this world alone. We can’t possibly do that.
But it is a question on what values. You say we could learn a lot from you. Yeah, we could learn a lot from Turkey. Turkey’s foreign policy is, let’s have no problems with any of our neighbors. I have the same view of American foreign policy. We should have no problems with Kurds, we should have no problems with Armenians, we should take the same view that Turkey does. We should have no problems with anybody. We should have an Armenian resolution about a massacre that happened – everybody should – we should have no problems with anybody.
Well, that isn’t actually the basis of American foreign policy. We do have problems with people. Now, a lot of people can say we’re inconsistent, we are contradictory. It’s all true, okay? But nevertheless, on more days in more ways, the United States does actually in its foreign policy stand for certain values and never looked out in the world and said, you know what, our foreign policy is based on having no problems with anybody. I can tell you, American foreign policy would be a lot easier if we just took the view that we have no problems with China’s human rights, we have no problems with Iran killing its own people because they simply want their votes counted in election. Life would be a lot easier. We could learn a lot from the Turks on that, I guess.
MR. AMORIM: Well, may I interject something?
MR. ROTHKOPF: I was counting on it. (Laughter.)
MR. AMORIM: Well, you know, we also stand for values and we also have problems, including with the United States, I am certain also with Iran, with India and with other countries and with Argentina, with our best friend and closest ally. I mean, life is about problems, but it’s also about the way of solving them, and I think just to pick up on what was said before on Cuba, isolation is not the best way to solve those problems.
I would mention, by the way, because this is one instance in which Brazil and the United States – I would say even myself and Secretary of State Clinton cooperated was on the resolution on the suspension – on the revocation of suspension of Cuba from the OAS, because it could be very easily be transformed to anti-United States resolution, which it was not because we worked together.
So it’s not as simple as that, as saying that, you know, because we have different views – I mean, it’s a question of talking. Well, I don’t want to come back to Iran, but you mean – you know, it’s not a question – let us be frank about this thing of values, because I follow – you know, I’ve been either ambassador to United Nations or minister for the last 20 years, with one year exception that was ambassador in London. So I have followed very closely all these questions.
And when it is of interest of the United States of any other countries – I have no indictment about the United States, I mean, but let us not be too much self-righteous – when it’s of interest, human rights in China is a problem. When trade agreements are about to be signed, human rights in China is no longer a problem. Then the following year, the agreement went down, it becomes a problem again.
When a country has a base, a military base of the United States, things that are not tolerated in other places are accepted. So it’s not as simple as that.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Yes, sir.
Q: Ravi Khanna, Voice of America Television. This is for Mr. Friedman and you. Do you think seriously that WikiLeaks will not have any ramifications for the conduct of foreign policy with the exposures of duplicity?
MR. AMORIM: I leave the “Lexus and the Olive Tree” first.
MR. FRIEDMAN: (Chuckles.) Yeah, I think it’s – I had thought of doing my column for tomorrow on this and it would be diplomatic cables in the age of WikiLeaks: Met with the prime minister of China today. He’s a nice man. We had good Chinese food. He says China – (laughter) – wants to have a peaceful rise. We nodded our heads. We’d like to have good relations with China. He’d like to have good relations with us. We ate more food. (Laughter.) We talked. We talked about the weather.
I mean, there is a real danger that that’s where diplomatic, you know, cabling is going to go or it’s all going to go over the phone. So it’s hard to believe that in the wake of this that if the American ambassador came in to the foreign minister of Brazil tomorrow and said, you know, let’s have a frank chat about Brazilian and American relations, it’s hard for me to believe that the foreign minister wouldn’t say, “am I going to read about this on the front page of the New York Times?” Or even if he’s too polite to say that isn’t going to think it.
So I think we just don’t know and a lot depends – if this is a one-off thing, these things tend to be forgotten and into the rush, an interplay of diplomacy you talk, you exchange, cables get written. But if this becomes a permanent feature of diplomatic life I’m not sure what happens.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Well, yeah, by the way, I mean I think we have to, you know, put it in a context of the issue that isn’t being discussed. You know, we’re talking about classified documents in a system where 3 million people have security clearances and hundreds of millions of documents are classified every year unnecessarily. And so you know, when you live in an age when those documents can be put on to a blank Lady Gaga disc – (laughter) – and hustled out of – you know, I mean, this is going to happen on an ongoing basis until you realize that the way you keep secrets is to have fewer secrets and give them to fewer people and you know, we have a system that can’t sustain that. Next question.
MR. AMORIM: May I?
MR. ROTHKOPF: Oh, I thought you didn’t – hi.
MR. AMORIM: No, no, I think I agree with that. But let me just make one remark because there is, of course, many negative sides and they have been pointed out and I don’t disagree with that because some deals you can only do if you are in the privacy and although if the American ambassador says I would want to have a frank talk I could not tell him let us put off the microphones because we don’t have microphones, anyway. (Laughter.) But I think there are – there is a quest for that.
But there’s another thing in which – let us say the defenders of the freedom of speech may have a point because one of the problems, I think, in conducting policy is that very easily – I’ll offer output now because since I’m going to leave office soon I can do this kind of thing – but there is people who deal with policy, very easily, are let us say, let us tend to agree or to follow the Machiavellian principle that the end justify the means.
And I think if you look at it at ethical – in ethical terms this might be true when the state – or the interest of the state is involved up to the point in which, in which – I’m not saying that has happened now, but I am just saying in theory – up to the point in which the means becomes so unethical that they affect, even, the legitimacy of the ends. So this is something – and I think because, you know, you cannot stop technology, surely more ways of having – and this happened before.
I mean, for a history of diplomacy everyone knows that by the end of 19th century and beginning of 20th century it was said that the era of secret diplomacy was over. Well, now we see that it was not over, but for a while it was less, less secret than it chose to be. I mean, you could not have a treaty with two different countries promising exactly the same thing to the two. That became impossible for some time at least.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Jessica.
Q: Thanks. Jessica Mathews. I wanted to ask Mr. Amorim, well, all three of you, a serious question about the future of international negotiation. There are at least two issues that we have to solve, globally, for the sake of our children or ourselves: Nonproliferation and we haven’t really talked about that because it’s more than Iran and climate. At least those –
MR. AMORIM: And climate.
Q: – climate, which we have to. I hear two things. I mean, one is we know that the difficulty of a negotiation goes up with the square, at least, maybe the cube of the number of participants. And we also heard you say earlier about the original G-20, the Cancun one, this was a chance for the first time for a group of countries to say no and as I think about it, together, to say no together. On many issues the – the principal, perhaps, issue which unites this very diverse group of countries might be opposition to the positions of the currently developed world.
So given those two factors, what do you see, looking ahead, as the likelihood of successful international negotiation on critical issues? Given a much larger number of must-be-at-the-table players and a group that perhaps feels in some issues, surely, with justification that this is the time to say no to whatever it is that the developed countries want.
MR. AMORIM: Well, first, maybe I didn’t want to bother you or to bore you with the tales of trade negotiations. But they didn’t limit themselves to say no; they said yes to many things that in theory, even, for instance the United States agreed with like the elimination of export subsidies.
But the way it was done before in order to please parliamentary – parliamentarians here and there, it was the opposite of that. So it was not only to say no, we were able to say no because it was, as I say, a kind of sweet deal between the European Union and the United States which denied the very objectives of the new Iran. So just to clarify it was not only to say no; it was a very propositional group.
On the question of the number – first on your list, I would add hunger. To that, I mean, we have to solve nonproliferation and disarmament; we have to solve – because it’s impossible to see one without the other –
MS. : (Off mic.)
MR. AMORIM: – yes, I understood it was implicit but let us put it explicit. The second point, climate, I agree and the third I would say hunger because hunger is also a crucial point and that – we devoted a lot of our foreign policy to combat hunger in different countries, not only ours by the way. But on the question – on the essential question that let us say I agree with you, it’s more and more difficult. But I can’t imagine two or three Athenian (ph) Democrats – sorry, two or three Athenians – what shall I say?
MR. : (Off mic.)
MR. AMORIM: Yes, politicians or whatever just saying, well, don’t you think this thing of democracy is making everything more complicated? Now we have to take into account the views of not only the 10 or 12 of us but we have to take in the account of 50,000. It’s more complicated but it’s part of the process. If you want to make the world more democratic and if you want to make everyone abide by the rules they have to feel that they participate in the formation of the rules. Of course it will never be perfect, it will always be imperfect as democracy is imperfect, but we get closer and closer.
So in a way, not my G-20, I mean, not the WTO G-20 – (inaudible). But what the G-20 is doing is something very positive because it’s not enough. I think, for instance, Africa is underrepresented in that group; Europe is overrepresented in that group. But anyway, it’s closer to what could be a representation of the world. So whatever is decided there has much more legitimacy than what is decided by seven.
Okay, if the G-7 wants to continue to have its meetings and makes its decision, fine, it will be irrelevant. It’s not I who am saying that, everyone says, well, the growth in the world now depends on the BRICs, or the Brazil, Russia, India and China – mainly China, but maybe in the others. So you can’t say at the same time that the continuous growth and stability of the economy depends on those countries and don’t give them a say.
MR. FRIEDMAN: You know, I think – I don’t know enough about the nonproliferation, if there’s an analogy here, but what I would say on the climate issue: I think climate has always been a uniquely difficult problem because you’re basically asking people to sacrifice today in response to a gas no one can see, touch or smell whose biggest impact will be on your unborn children or grandchildren. So it requires an enormous act of stewardship by one generation to the next.
And certainly what I’ve unhappily concluded: That absent one of two conditions, one is a perfect storm which is a storm big enough to end the climate debate but not end the world; or absent in a level of American leadership that we have not seen even a fraction of on this issue where we say to the world, we are going to put these burdens on ourselves, we are going to make the sacrifices follow us, not after you. That’s why Copenhagen failed; it was all after you, it wasn’t follow us. So absent either a level of American leadership or that perfect storm I kind of don’t – I don’t see it myself.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Yeah, you know, I just want to say one thing and it pertains more to the issue of disarmament but – and doubly of deep proliferation, but it, sort of, related somewhat to what Celso was talking about. The process has changed and so the strategies now have to change and we are early enough in the life of the G-20 – remember, the first G-20 meeting was November 15th, two years ago. You know, the crisis meeting, right?
And so we’re very early into the life of that and we’re early into the roles some of these new groupings are playing and I don’t think we’ve got the strategies sorted out so that’s an issue.
And some of the alliances are going to shift and sort themselves out and it’s going to – the system will ultimately get to working the same way democracy does. Having said that, there are in these things, special responsibilities for leading players and I think it is absolutely clear that to take a country that, you know, is not represented in this room at the moment, the Chinese are not yet up to the leadership role that they have got to play in order to address some of these issues. And if you take the WikiLeaks and you look at the reports and the, you know, the evidence even just in those documents of Chinese shipments and missile technologies, you know, or North Korean transshipment through China into Iran. You know, we know that the Pakistani missile technologies are coming out of China.
Countries that play a leading role, countries that enter these G-20 have to, as you were saying earlier, assume responsibility, have to play a different kind of role. And unless they do those deals can’t come either because they’ve got to rise to the challenges and we’re not there yet. And frankly, I have to say – and you write about this periodically – the world is so mesmerized by the economic grandeur, not of China today but of what China might be, that it is paralyzed in speaking candor to the Chinese about some of these issues which is not say, you know, everything in China is bad, the Chinese are all bad. Much that is happening there is remarkable and where they have come at it. It’s just to say that kind of evolution also has to take place both within China and within the way we deal with China and other countries in this case.
We’ve got time for a couple more questions. Let’s go in the back of the room because we haven’t had any. Start with Nancy Birdsall.
Q: Thank you very much, David. This is a follow-up question to, I think, the critical point that Jessica was raising. Though I didn’t take from her question that she was saying, is the G-20 really better than the G-7? But just raising the larger question which, about, well, what do we do in a world where we’re having so much difficulty with any kind of collective action at the global level? But we do have these collective-action challenges.
And so I just wanted to express and kind of frame this as a reaction to what you then said, David, which is, China isn’t ready. And say that I feel quite worried – (chuckles) – about these global issues because the U.S. is no longer able or interested in doing it, leading alone. It really does need to have followers or other leaders and the contrast is actually – it’s not about whether our values are better or whether we’re not a hyper power, we’re a superpower, maybe it is about that.
It’s simply about the fact that in contrast to most of the latter 20th century, global – there is less alignment of our economic interests with prosperity everywhere. We feel beleaguered as a country so we are no longer able to take that leadership role and it does seem to have to do with multipolarity and what people are now calling multipolarity without the impulse for cooperation or multilateralism.
So with that long introduction I’m just wondering if, particularly, Ambassador Amorim would comment on that because I think Brazil is much closer to taking responsibility, but possibly not there yet, either. And maybe we just face a structural problem that in a – in a global system in which geopolitical power really is distributed among four or five major powers in a way that it wasn’t in the past – at least in the Western, liberal international order – we really – we really need to think much more seriously about how you generate this kind of collective action. We’re really in a bit of a mess.
MR. AMORIM: Well, it’s very difficult, I suppose, for anyone – first of all, thank you, Nancy Birdsall, because of course I know your – follow you and your articles. Thank you for the question. But I think it’s very difficult for any superpower that cites self as the sole leader to somehow divide its leadership with others.
Of course, we don’t have the presumption that we’ll have the same weight as the United States has, for many reasons. But we have some. And I would say even that Brazil – I think it’s a shame when people think that Brazil and the United States are separated because in many things – in many things we agree; many more things than those that we disagree.
But if you allow me two minutes, I’ll tell a short story about a friend of mine – an American ambassador – was also here a secretary of, not secretary of state but secretary of something else – and governor.
You may by then have guessed who said – whom I once asked, I told him once that the best friend is not the one who agrees always, but one who has the same values and can show his or her opinion. And said, he thought he had to beat – he had a lot of sense of humor – he says, I think we prefer those who agree always. (Laughter.)
So the big problem in acting collectively is that you have to share the objectives but not necessarily we have to agree in all the same means. And that’s precisely what happened in Tehran agreement, in my opinion. We might disagree, and we might ask more of them. But you know, especially when it comes to the field – it used to happen in the field of trade. Now it’s changed. I think the United – I think that because whatever happens with the Doha round – and I hope it will conclude someday – the United States has understood that it cannot lead alone. And not even can lead only with the European Union – needs the other countries. The same applies to climate.
But I think it’s very difficult to accept that in the – in the sphere of peace and security. And they have to – that has to do also with nonproliferation and disarmament. If you – if the world – I mean, Brazil has put non-use of nuclear weapons and in its – not – (inaudible) – let me put it in a different way: the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy in its constitution. I think it’s one of the few countries in the world that has done that. And we’ll always abide by that.
But if you want us to be active in the nonproliferation, you have to understand also what are our views on disarmament – on the elimination of nuclear weapons. And we welcome very much what President Obama said in this respect. But this has to be operationalized. It’s not just to put an objective for the year 2000 – as someone said the other day on climate, everyone can agree on what will happen in 2050. The difficult thing is to agree on what will happen on 2020, on 2015. And that requires a lot. Collective action is much more difficult than the individual act.
I always thought – said about the difficult question of reform of the Security Council and people say, well, if you have more members it will become less efficient. Of course, the most efficient in terms of decision-making is if you have only one member. But I mean, the decisions on the other hand will be less effective because people will not feel involved in the decisions. So they’ll not feel bound to (follow ?) it. So it is a big difficulty, but it’s a difficulty that we have to face. There is no alternative to collective action.
Just a final thing, if I may say in the case of Brazil: Don’t think that Brazil – everyone in Brazil is eager to participate. Quite to the contrary, I would say that a lot – a great part at especially in our economic elite will say, but why should we bother with Iran? Why should we bother with the Middle East? Why should we bother with these questions? Leave it. Let us deal – let us deal only with export of our soybean and our ethanol and we’ll be happy.
Well, unfortunately, the world is not like that. And what – depending on happening in the Middle East, our exports of soybean and our exports of ethanol will be affected, so that’s why you understand that we have – among other things, among the human objectives, also – but we have to be involved.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Did you want to say something, Tom?
MR. FRIEDMAN: No, I think that – (inaudible, cross talk).
MR. ROTHKOPF: By the way I’d like to follow up with a point that Tom brought up a little bit earlier. All those things, I think, one could stipulate as being true. But another hurdle related to the Chinese one is, you may have different values on things. But how do rising powers like Brazil intend to deal with violations of human rights in places like Iran?
Should that just be shrugged off by the world and left as a matter of national sovereignty? You know – or is there another approach? Because you know, you say, well, there is another approach and that we share certain kinds of values. And clearly, I can’t imagine that one embraces the slaughter of innocents. So what’s the other approach?
MR. AMORIM: Well, I’m still the foreign minister of Brazil, so I cannot say – or otherwise I would give a simple answer to you and say, the same way as you deal with a human rights violation in “X” country. But I can’t put a – mention the “X” country because I’m still the foreign minister of Brazil.
But let – just to do away with the hypocrisy here –
MR. AMORIM: No, no. You know – you know, there’s this big saying by La Rochefoucauld that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. And I think – and it’s good – hypocrisy has its merits. It’s civilizational, in a way. But anyway, I think that you can deal with these problems in a different way.
I mean, I’ll be very simple – don’t give a lecture here. But we believe, for instance, in the Human Rights Council, that all the countries should be subject to the same kind of scrutiny. It’s not one scrutiny for a country that you chose because you don’t like it or you don’t like its regime, or you don’t like up to a date until you have a trade agreement and then you start to like it.
The same treatment for Brazil, the United States, Iran – whatever. Cuba. And then, of course, we do the recommendations, you’ll see how they behave. And you know, don’t underestimate – don’t underestimate the importance of moral pressure. I have been chairing several groups. I remember, for instance, I was chair of the governing body of the ILO. There are no effective sanctions in the sense – with teeth – as people say. At the same time, the fact that there was an investigation committee going on in Myanmar made people – possible investors – to come – to go back.
But you know, it’s not correct to choose beforehand the country and then judge it, and not judge others. This is something that which I believe is a big mistake. And I think that’s why we insisted and defended what people call its universal, periodic review. And in these reviews, we have made recommendations, for instance, to Iran about death penalty, death penalty of young people. Actually, we would make some recommendations death penalty to the United States, as well, if it – if it comes to that.
And we have made criticism to North Korea. And actually came actually to support the resolution on North Korea precisely because North Korea made deaf ears to the recommendations. But it has to have a minimum – a minimum of equity. Cannot say that I’m – you know, I proposed once a resolution when I was ambassador. Very simple one with one sentence, when I was ambassador – and I think it was (Mr. Jizleni ?) who helped me to pass it through in the Commission of Human Rights at the time.
It was set to say – because of certain movements in Europe – to say “racism is incompatible with democracy.” Very simple resolution. And I got all the flak that I could imagine from everyone: for whom are you working? What is this? What’s the objective? Mostly from the Europeans, I must say. But even the Americans, who had a black ambassador there, hesitated to support the resolution. Then it was approved by consensus. But it took a lot because we developing countries were not supposed to present any resolution under political and civil rights.
MR. ROTHKOPF: One or two more questions. Okay, other side of the aisle from Nancy.
Q: Hi, my name is Katlie (ph) – I’m Brazilian. And I don’t want to bring back the WikiLeaks topic but terrorism was in the WikiLeaks. And we’re going to host the Olympics and the World Cup, and I would like to know from the minister if we are going to see any change on Brazilians’ approach to terrorism, in terms of legislation – or anything?
MR. AMORIM: You know, one day there was a Brazilian politician who – he lived – at the time of that the capital was Rio de Janeiro. He would spend a week in Rio de Janeiro and then he would go in the weekends to Sao Paulo. And every, every weekend he would pick up the train and go there and spend the weekend.
And once, he decided to participate in a kind of a wild party in Rio de Janeiro. And he decided, well, I go by plane. And I come there in the morning, and of course, my wife will think, well, that’s normal because that’s the time that he come. So it so happened that in this evening and this night there was an accident with the train. And his wife said – had said, how come you arrive here? I was so worried. There was an accident with the train.
Well, yes, there was an accident. I heard in the radio. And he said, do you believe in everything that the radio says? Well, I’ll tell you the same thing – do you believe everything that the cable say? Well, Brazil does combat terrorism. But we have a different view. We don’t tend to associate any crime whatsoever with terrorism. I think the fact is that Brazil has not been scene – thanks God – has not been a scene for terrorist acts, except at the time of the military regime and then it’s a very difficult thing to go, who started what?
So I think we are – we are – yes, very concerned with the security in the World Cup and in the Olympics. And what the – what the security force had just done in Rio de Janeiro and will continue to do is an illustration of that.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Okay. One more question. Yes, sir.
Q: Hi. This is for Minister Amorin. I’m Doug Palmer with Reuters. I just wanted to ask a question about the Doha round, which you have referred to a number of times today. Pascal Lamy said today that the countdown for a Doha deal has begun. And a lot of people – (chuckles) – a lot of people think that 2011 is a propitious year to get it – to get it done, and worry that if it slips into 2012 it won’t happen because it’s a U.S. election year and it’ll be too difficult, politically.
I just wondered, what is your sense of where things are in the Doha round and if a deal could be struck in 2011?
MR. AMORIN: You want the long answer or short answer?
Q: Just whichever you prefer.
MR. AMORIN: Well, I think it’s possible. I think it’s possible. I wish Pascal good luck, and I wish my successor a good luck. But you know, this thing reminds me a little bit of Lord Keynes saying that in the long run – and he said in the long run, we shall be all dead. It sounds to me a bit like that. But we think it’s still – it’s still possible.
We were very close in July 2008. And I think a big mistake, in my opinion, is to change the basis of the agreement because then it won’t work. Adjustments – yes. And I must tell you, within all honesty, when I saw Democrat administration coming in, with all its defense of multilateralism, I would expect – maybe – some difficulty. Maybe in question of, like, labor standards or social issues. Maybe stressing environmental aspects or norms of the agreement.
I would never expect the Democrat administration to have precisely the same agenda that prevented the conclusion of the round in July 2008. And that was the counting of the votes of who support which sector of the manufacturing industry. So this is really, what I think, is the main difficulty to conclude the round – that’s my opinion. It’s simple. And you could do that in six months if you change the approach.
MR. ROTHKOPF: Okay. Is there a last question? Going once. All right. Look, you know – I think this has been fascinating and a real privilege to listen to this conversation. It’s very, very clear that as we – our starting premise was that much has changed. It’s also very clear that much has yet to be resolved; that we’re at very early days in this. But what is undisputable in that context is that both of these guys have played a very significant role in helping to shape these changes and helping us to move forward toward solutions.
They didn’t agree on everything. But in terms of the general direction of a more democratic world with fairer representation for everybody within that world, and the need to grapple with the challenges associated with making that world, I think there is a consensus among them. And I hope that you take that away, and that you’ll join me in thanking both Tom and Celso for a terrific, terrific discussion. (Applause.)