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Seven years ago, many reacted with skepticism about the need to make changes in the world economic geography and that Brazil and other countries were ready to play a significant role in the World Trade Organization or gain permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council. Both the world and Brazil have changed quite rapidly. Developing countries have presented higher economic growth, becoming central actors in the world economy.

Greater South-South coordination -- at the WTO, International Monetary Fund, United Nations and new coalitions such as the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) -- have raised the voices of countries once relegated to a secondary position. The more the developing countries discuss and cooperate, the more their voices will be heard. The recent financial crisis made it clear that the world can no longer be governed by just a few.

Progress on many fronts -- from macroeconomic stability to social justice -- has made Brazil more stable and less unfair, changing its perception abroad. A new group of countries has increasingly earned influence in the international agenda, from climate change to trade, from finance to peace and security, and are bringing about new perspectives to global problems.

It was in this context that we advanced a comprehensive and proactive foreign policy. We sought to build coalitions that have gone beyond traditional alliances and relations that we strove to maintain and enhance, such as in the establishment of a Strategic Partnership with the European Union and a Global Partnership Dialogue with the United States.

Significant growth in our exports to developing countries and new mechanisms such as the G-20 within the WTO, the IBSA Dialogue Forum (India, Brazil and South Africa) and BRICs, reflect this trend towards a global foreign policy.

Steps toward integration

The basis for this new foreign policy was the increased integration of South America. From Day One, President Lula has undertaken efforts toward integrating the continent, through trade, infrastructure and political dialogue, which saw the creation of a new entity -- the Union of South American Nations.

The Mercosur-Andean Community agreement established a free-trade zone in South America, whose physical integration, linking the Atlantic and the Pacific, has seen remarkable progress.

Building on a better integrated South America, Brazil engaged in creating mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation with countries in other regions. The G-20 creation within the WTO, in 2003, marked the coming of age of countries from the South, transforming once and for all the decision-making process in trade negotiations.

The IBSA allowed close coordination among three major multiethnic and multicultural democracies, which have much to say about upholding tolerance and reconciling development with democracy. The IBSA has become a model for projects benefiting poorer nations, thus demonstrating in practice that solidarity is not an attribute of the rich.

The summits between South American and African countries, as well as with Arab countries, connecting regions that were far apart, strengthened economic relations. Brazilian trade with Arab countries grew four-fold in seven years, while trade with Africa, five-fold, to more than $26 billion, surpassing trade with Germany and Japan.

These new coalitions are helping to change the world. The replacement of the G-7 with the G-20 constitutes evidence that decisions regarding the world economy lack legitimacy and effectiveness in the absence of emerging countries.

In the field of peace and security, Brazil and Turkey were able to persuade Iran to take on the commitments provided for in the Tehran Declaration. New perspectives and approaches are necessary to tackle issues previously dealt with exclusively by the permanent members of the Security Council. Despite resistance to an initiative nurtured outside the restricted circle of nuclear powers, we are certain that it will serve as a basis for negotiations and a settlement for that issue.

Good foreign policy requires prudence. But it also requires boldness. It is usual to hear that countries should act in accordance with their means, but the greatest mistake one could make is to underestimate one's possibilities.

Brazil has acted with boldness and, like other developing countries, has changed its place in the world. Today such countries are bearing increasing responsibilities, entitled to play an ever more central role in the decisions that affect the destiny of the planet.

Celso Amorim is Brazil's foreign minister.

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