Brazil and the European Union: between balancing and bandwagoning

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Series Details No.2, July 2012
Publication Date 11/07/2012
ISSN 2254-6162
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If relations between India and the European Union (EU) are a marriage of convenience, Brazil and the EU seem like a long standing couple. The two partners continue to share strong political affinities but they have gradually grown apart over time. They are now at a crossroads between continuing their relationship or getting a divorce.

This leaning towards separation occurs just as Brazil and the EU are ever closer partners due to Brazil’s ascent up the international economic ladder. Their relationship will be less asymmetric than ever before: according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, in thirteen years time, with a GDP of $3.95 billion and an internal market comprising 215 million people, Brazil will become the world’s fifth largest economy with Germany relegated to seventh position.

As they grow closer economically, Brazil and the EU grow apart politically and adopt different positions on the international agenda. In the last decade, Brazil – historically one of the more pro-European countries in Latin America due to its tradition, culture and education – has turned more towards Asia. This external redirection has given it a hybrid identity: Brazil’s values make it a Western country, but its global action makes it a member of the BRICS. This and the ‘Asiatization’ of the economy have entailed a growing decline of its political relations with the EU.

This paper analyses the reasons for the mutual distancing between Brazil and the EU and, from this basis, seeks to redefine their relations to seize their true potential. It envisages three scenarios but emphasizes that of ‘Brazil as ally’. This offers the best way forward to project the EU as a global player without renouncing its interests and values which, moreover, almost always coincide with those defended by Brazil.

Before reaching this scenario, the paper presents the main reasons why the EU and Brazil are close partners in terms of values but distant partners when it comes to taking positions. In a second stage, it analyses these differences in five global spheres: trade, development, climate change, security and the international financial system. Finally, it suggests a joint strategy involving balance-wagoning – a third way between balancing and bandwagoning offering a cross between opposition and adherence – and a structured horizontal dialogue, to reach a scenario in which Brazil and the EU are allies.

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