Brazil and the World

Ambassador Alan Charlton speech at FAAP in São Paulo on 5th June. The Ambassador talked about Brazil's growing global importance.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Ambassador Alan Charlton

I started as British ambassador to Brazil on 1 December 2008 giving a lecture in the city of Sao Paulo. I’m delighted to be speaking again in Sao Paulo as I come to the end of my ambassadorship. When the late Mrs Thatcher flew over Sao Paulo she asked the then British Ambassador why no-one had told her about the city before. Sao Paulo is a city and state of huge importance in Brazil, in the region and the world. The UK has extended the manpower and functions of the British Consulate-General in Sao Paulo, housed at the Brazilian-British Centre. We have just inaugurated in Campinas and Ribeirao Preto new Honorary Consuls to build our relations with these important cities and regions. Sao Paulo is the centre of Brazil.

This is a good place to speak about why the World needs Brazil and why Brazil needs the World.

I feel at home in FAAP. I have enjoyed your hospitality several times and hope to keep up the connection. You have hosted senior British guests, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown in March 2009. In March 2013, you were the first Brazilian institution to give a platform to the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland – whose co-operation across the centuries –old divide there is a shining example of the possibilities of peace even in protracted conflicts. Thank you Professor Marcus Vinicius dos Anjos Goncalves for helping us make possible that visit. Thank you to all today for coming and devoting the time to this event as part of your busy schedules in this pulsating city.

My purpose is to give a personal view drawing on the impressions gained during my time here of Brazil over the last four-and-a-half years and how it might become an ever more prominent player in the world.

Brazil and the World Economic Crisis

A principal source of a country’s strength is its economy. Margaret Thatcher was key to turning the UK economy around in the 1980s. For Brazil, the Plano Real and the Presidencies since then have turned a crisis and inflation-ridden country into one of the most stable in the world.

But I recall vividly in the weeks leading up to and after December 2008 fears in Brazil about the impact of the unfolding international financial and economic crisis. I heard from business people concerns about particular companies and worries about payments.

The crisis was born in North America and Europe but no country could be immune from its impact. It was a worrying moment and the future was not at all clear. How could the world’s leaders deal with it? Ever since five emerging powers including Brazil were invited by Prime Minister Tony Blair to the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005, there have been questions whether a new voluntary Group could be formed expanding the G8 to take account of the shift of economic power east and south and help steer international policy. This did not work out. When the crisis hit in 2008-9, the G20 was the best available forum to pursue international coordination and seek to prevent the crisis turning into a crash of 1929 proportions with all the further human misery that would entail. The UK had chairmanship of the G20 in 2009. Gordon Brown (on the visit to Brazil which included his talk at FAAP) conferred with President Lula in Brasilia. I remember President Lula saying to Gordon Brown, whom he had come to know well over the years, that the upcoming April G20 Summit needed to show the world that leaders were working together and had a plan to deal with the situation. That Summit meeting in London did indeed help to calm nerves and point the way ahead, thanks to the G20 acting cohesively together.

The world economy took a big knock but it did not fall into an abyss in 2009. Yet the impact of the crisis was and is serious and is still with us. I do not need to tell you about the continuing reverberations within the Eurozone for example. It has affected the UK: employment is at record levels but economic growth is only now beginning a slow recovery looking at around 1% for 2013. The UK still has a long road ahead to eliminate the structural deficit and reduce debt.

For Brazil, it became clear in 2009 that the solid foundations of its economy were enabling it to weather the storm. Whereas in past decades Brazil’s economy might have been very badly hit by an international crisis, on this occasion it stood firm and bounced back with strong growth in 2010. This generated increased confidence abroad in the Brazilian economy, so much so that Brazil is nowadays a major recipient of investment from the UK.

This watershed moment strengthened the belief of many people that the move towards a middle-class consumer economy, with high employment and enjoying foreign holidays was entrenched. This strengthening of the middle class is having political consequences too.

The March of Civil Society

I am struck by how this advance in affluence has been accompanied by a strengthening of civil society in Brazil. With increasing use of internet, it is making its voice heard ever more on important issues.

Some examples of this.

2009 was the year leading up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit. Brazilian scientists, the media, business people, Brazilians of all ages made clear their strong attachment to the international effort to limit global warming and to Brazil’s responsibility both in slowing the high emissions in this country and as a key player in the global debate. The Government of President Lula acted accordingly. In the weeks before Copenhagen, Brazil adopted voluntary measures to reduce Brazilian emissions 36-38% on business as usual by 2020. Congress then moved with speed to pass these targets into law. Unfortunately, not all countries were ready at Copenhagen for a global deal. But Brazilian leadership gave the negotiations a push from which we continue to benefit as the world edges towards an agreement encompassing effort from all – this is not a problem which will be dealt with effectively without greater South-North co-operation.

In 2010, there was the conclusion of an impressive campaign petitioning Congress supporting ficha limpa so that only politicians unconnected with corruption could be elected to public office. Again, Congress enacted legislation. With respect to the 2010 elections, there was legal challenge to the applicability of the law retrospectively. The full impact of this legislation, if not watered down by Congress, should be seen in the candidatures for the 2014 Presidential and general elections.

In 2011, it was remarkable to see how the President Dilma Rousseff’s popularity was enhanced, including with people who had not voted for her in 2010, when she removed Ministers from her government suspected of corruption. In March that year she hosted in Brasilia the first summit of the Open Government Partnership, an initiative which the UK will carry on with a summit in London later this year – further evidence of commitment to fighting corruption and operating government transparently so that citizens have the information they need to hold it to account. The Brazilian law on freedom of information gives citizens new access – with the prospect that in time the default views will be to make all information available unless there are strong reasons not to do so rather than protect information unless forced to reveal it. There was great excitement at the Brasilia meeting, not least because of the contributions from members of new North African governments following the Arab Spring who said their revolutions were about enabling the people to share power. The world is moving ahead on this agenda.

In 2012, the public accompanied trial no 470 every day on television. Supreme Court Justices became instantly recognisable figures, especially the President of the Court. It is not for me to comment on the rights and wrongs of the trial and judgement. What was remarkable was the public expectation that the powerful too should be held to account. The issue is not yet over. Yet whatever happens in the coming months something important has changed in Brazil with that judgement late last year. As Brazil continues its development from a newly urbanised country - and Professor Ricupero has written eloquently on the political consequences of this process in Latin America – towards a society of increasingly well-informed and engaged middle-class citizens I can only imagine ever higher expectations of combating corruption, transparency in government and business, and rule of law applying to all and implemented for all.

Expectations of better public services

There are also expectations not only of rooting out corruption but also of providing effective modern public services commensurate with the high taxes collected here. Brazil has started from a long way back on its health, education and public-security systems. It has excellence in all areas but not excellence throughout or for all. The outcomes are not as good as in some developing economies in Asia.

Health often comes out as top among public concerns in opinion polls in Brazil. There are world-class private hospitals here in Sao Paulo. Around the country there is healthcare for all through the SUS, itself modelled on the UK National Health Service. I hope the UK can work with Brazil to help deliver the services the Brazilians now expect.

On education, it took Brazil longer than most developing countries to get all children into school. It’s been a great achievement. But quality is uneven. My first career was as a teacher in UK and German schools. I think it’s important to value teachers: only excellent teachers will deliver excellent education.

On public security, again public opinion is having its say. There was tremendous public support for the pacification of favelas in Rio de Janeiro even using the armed forces and heavy weapons in the first wave, bringing these areas and people into the city and state for the first time as normal citizens with rights and responsibilities. In all cities, security is a top concern for mayors. The death rate in this country through homicides and road accidents overtakes anything we shall see in conflicts in Africa or the Middle East.

Brazil and the World

Brazilians are impressively quick to point out where their country still has progress to make. But Brazilians at the same time feel their situation is much better than 10 years or 20 years ago since the Plano Real. They are optimistic about the direction of travel and are right to be so. As Brazil continues to develop, more and more of its people naturally take an interest in world beyond Brazil. The rest of the world is taking an ever greater interest in Brazil, wondering how it will work with the world in the decades to come.

In the past, Brazil has perhaps been mostly known for football and samba. While other large countries are recognised by large or fearsome animals – the bear, the dragon, the tiger - Brazil is seen abroad as a macaw or parrot: colourful, exotic, fun.

But Brazil is already much more than that and will become even more in the future. Brazilian leaders have always had high aspirations that Brazil would become increasingly influential. That has already happened and can develop further. This is not because it plays a key role in the great regional crises of the day in the Middle East and Asia – so far, it does not. It does play a key role in Haiti and chairs the UN Peace Building council on Guinea Bissau.

Brazil’s current influence is much more related to key global issues. I have already mentioned Brazilian leadership on climate change. Linked with that is its role on sustainable development. The Rio + 20 conference last year was a moment to start setting a path towards a world which can support 9 billion plus people by 2050 without destroying the planet. Brazil will be a leading player as the UN seeks to build an effective plan based on the Rio outcomes in the coming years. Brazil is influential in the issues of food security and management of agriculture. Embrapa is a world-class organisation, which attracts partners from around the world.

Brazil’s greater connection with the world is supported by its increased network of embassies around the world and the opening of new foreign embassies in Brasilia. Regionally, Brazil is the key player in MERCOSUR and UNASUR, seeing these organisations as contexts for greater regional integration.

I believe the world needs more Brazilian engagement. The UK would like to see Brazil on the UN Security Council as a Permanent Member as part of a wider reform. That may, unfortunately, take some time. Meanwhile, we would like to see Brazil engage ever more in a constructive spirit on the great issues of international security – on the NPT, bringing the ATT into force, on regional issues such as the MEPP, Syria, Iran and North Korea, on key themes such as Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. I don’t expect Brazil will always agree with the UK view but we do hope it will propagate the values of fairness, co-operation, non-tolerance of corruption and violations of human rights, which are central to the Brazilian self-image.

Everyone supports the peaceful settlement of problems. But sometimes peace and security can only be served by including a muscular approach, just as in the favelas of Rio. We learned in the UK the hard way in the late 1930s that appeasement can lead to huge loss of life and liberty, which only intervention can forestall. The lesson I took from the years I worked on the Bosnia issue in the 1990s was not that the approach of the UK and international community had been wrong - seeking a negotiated settlement between the parties of former Yugoslavia and meanwhile doing everything possible to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. What I learned was that our failure to intervene militarily sooner than the UK and France did intervene cost the lives of thousands and thousands of civilians who would not have died if we have moved earlier. Another terrible example of the consequences of inaction, failure to intervene, was Rwanda in the 1990s.

I am not seeking to draw parallels with current crises in the world. What I want to say is that intervention should not be ruled out ideologically at all times and under all circumstances. Each case is different and in many cases intervention is not the right approach. I drew from my years in Germany, particularly in Berlin before and during the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, that sometimes you need to win the battle of ideas and values as well as show political and military resolve: the German Democratic Republic, which curiously despite its abuse of human rights attracted some admirers around the world, collapsed because of its moral bankruptcy. It was sobering to hear at a seminar on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall in 2009 in Brasilia the stories from ambassadors in Central and Eastern Europe about the terrible situation in their countries before the fall of the Wall.

The Multipolar World of the 21st Century

The multipolar world of the 21st century can only progress if there is partnership and burden-sharing. Some examples:

The planet will only be saved from disastrous global warming if all countries play a big part. The developed countries have a historical responsibility. The UK is doing its bit: our national law requires government to ensure reductions in emissions up to 80% by 2050. But while responsibilities for the past vary and underline the justice of requiring a special effort from those who developed first, the fact is that we shall ruin the planet for all our descendants if the emerging countries do not also take drastic action as they are increasingly causing the bulk of emissions. Let us remember that it is the poorest in the world who will suffer first and most from climate change. This is a test for a world where strength is increasingly spread among more countries, where the economic order is changing fast. Can we all, including the emerging powers, work together? Is this multipolar world capable of producing a global deal in the global interest? Brazil’s role will be crucial.

A second example is combating poverty. The UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel has just reported with ideas on how to follow on the Millennium Development Goals after 2015 and in particular calling for a campaign to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. There are still a billion and a half people in the world in extreme poverty. Again, developed countries have a special responsibility. The UK now gives the UN recommended figure of 0.7% of Gross National Income as Overseas Development Assistance. Brazil has a special role to play. It has historical and contemporary connections with Africa. The UK and other countries are developing with Brazil trilateral co-operation, for example through the support for agricultural projects in Africa and through supporting the trial of Embrapa Technological Research Units in African countries to determine the best use of land in particular locations. I hope Brazil will move forward from its excellent but modest programme of co-operation with poor countries to become a major player against extreme poverty. The Brazilian development experience is highly relevant to Africa. Brazil co-hosted a Hunger Summit with Prime Minister David Cameron in London during last year’s Olympics and will do so again in London tomorrow. It has an opportunity with the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil to generate further international momentum to attack poverty.

A third area is international trade. There is a risk of a slide to greater protectionism in the world in response to the economic difficulties countries are facing. This is not the answer. In fact it is a road to lower growth. The world needs more trade to promote more growth and that means fewer barriers. To have a strong multilateral trade system in a multipolar is key for all - developed countries, emerging economies and the poorer countries. Let us not forget that the Doha Round was seen as a way to support development. We do have to give poorer countries a chance to enter our markets in goods where they have strength. To take an example: is it fair to limit textiles from poor countries entering our countries by subsidising our own textile industries? 2013 is an important year. Can the new Brazilian Director-General Roberto Azevedo help the world to a trade facilitation deal in Bali? Meanwhile, the world trading system is increasingly defined by regional agreements. The EU has long had agreements with Africa allowing free access. It has concluded agreements with many other regions and countries. It is negotiating with Japan, India, Canada and the US. It has agreements with other parts of Latin America and is attracted by the principles of the nascent Pacific Alliance. The EU is interested too in a deal with Brazil and MERCOSUR ; this year will show whether MERCOSUR is ready for this.

Brazil needs the World

The World needs Brazil for the global challenges of this century. Brazil needs the world too. We all need to get ourselves fit for a global race in the multipolar world. This is the thought behind the UK call for change in the EU on which Prime Minister David Cameron wants to give the British electorate an opportunity to express an opinion in a referendum in 2017. It is why making the multilateral system work to tackle global warming, promote sustainable development, eradicate poverty, increase trade is so important. In order to achieve our goals at home, we need to be open to the world.

I have been privileged to see Brazil move forward in my time her as Ambassador. The economy has become the sixth in the world; millions have moved out of poverty; Brazil’s democracy is gaining an ever more active civil society.

Brazil has a bright future. It has fabulous natural resources, world-beating agriculture, hard-working and creative people.

But Brazil will have to internationalise more to ensure it realises its full potential over the next 20 years. It has sometimes been said that countries of continental size do not need to be as open as small countries such as the UK because of its large domestic market. I do not think that will hold true if Brazil has high ambition for the 21st century. We live in a networked and interdependent world. Success requires international vision and co-operation. It is interesting to see how China has developed in this regard from a closed country to one pressing, unlike Brazil, for the declaration against protection in the G20 to be renewed. China is now investing in UK in a way we saw start from Japan a generation ago.

It is important to build industry and services and ensure employment: protection and local-content regulations can play a role for a transitional period. Yet this can lead to a high-cost and not in all areas high-tech economy. EMBRAER, a great Brazilian success story and highly competitive, does not have to meet the stringent local-content rules in other sectors: it has the best components from anywhere in the world in order to be the best company it can be internationally. Some foreign companies based in Brazil may like protection as it means that once they are established in Brazil they are screened from competition from outside Brazil. This helps them do good business in the growing Brazil market. It does not encourage them to become more efficient, productive or technologically advanced or increase exports from Brazil.

It would not be straightforward for Brazil to open up immediately to international competition while it has to deal with inflation and a high exchange rate. Yet there should be clarity about the importance of being competitive, both on price and technology, and to chart a course towards this. It also requires give and take in trade negotiations – the EU needs to show flexibility on agriculture, for example. The bottom line It is difficult to develop innovation and become competitive if you are not open to the world and don’t welcome competition.

Exports will be important so that Brazil can reach its full potential. If we take away Brazil’s impressive exports of natural resources and food, its export performance is not as strong as it could be. When I asked a Brazilian recently where else Brazil was doing well in exports I was told Brazil is also exporting consumers! You can see this in the explosion of flights to the US and Europe and the heavy bags with which Brazilian travellers return. The other side of this coin is the very high prices imposed on consumers in Brazil owing to high taxes and limited competition.

When it was formed over 20 years ago MERCOSUR was envisaged as an organisation which would reach out to the whole region as the EU has done in Europe, freeing up trade and promoting integration for the benefit of all. The idea was that more countries would join. Venezuela has now done so and Bolivia, Surinam and perhaps Ecuador may do so. But other fast-improving regional economies and associate members such as Colombia and Chile are more open to the world; the MERCOSUR model may not be so relevant for them now. MERCOSUR, on its current path, may become an exclusive rather than the kind of inclusive association attracting all in the region as the expanding European Union has become.

President Dilma Rousseff has showed leadership in her inspirational programme Science Without Borders, looking to place an additional 101,000 Brazilian students overseas studying Science, Maths and Technology during her current term of office. This has made a huge difference in educational exchanges with the UK – 1000 in the first year, likely to be 2000 in the second year. I have met Brazilian students around the UK: they are benefitting from the experience and UK universities love hosting them. Stimulated by this programme, UK universities are redoubling their efforts to seek out Brazilian universities for new partnerships beyond this programme. But it is more difficult for our universities to form partnerships with Brazil than with Asian countries. My home-town university, Nottingham, for example, has campuses in Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur; it is not so straightforward to forge such partnerships with Brazil.

Even so, UK institutions are developing more research collaboration, including with FAPESP in Sao Paulo – Research Without Borders. We want to conclude a scheme with the Brazilian government on the lines of Science Without Borders for vocational training, which we are calling Skills without Borders.

Brazilians are showing ever more interest in studying International Relations at university. They are also showing a keen interest in making up Brazil’s deficiency in English-language competence. I hope the UK will be able to help ever more in this – English without Borders. We are already including extended opportunities for Science Without Borders students to get their English up to the required level through pre-sessional courses at their UK universities as well as tuition before they leave Brazil.

The coming years are an opportunity for Brazil to make a leap forward in its international engagement. The World Cup and Olympics will be wonderful sporting events, on which the UK is seeking to help through its London Olympics experience and leading role of the English Premier League. As well as great stadia and better infrastructure their legacy could be greater internationalisation of Brazil.

I hope there will be ever more debate among Brazil’s strengthening civil society on both how Brazil can help the world and how the world can help Brazil. Openness at home and internationally seems to me the obvious way for a country with the values of Brazil to go. Opening up not always easy and popular with everyone. But Brazil has so much to offer and also so much to gain in the long term. The World needs Brazil; Brazil needs the World.

I am delighted that the UK has re-engaged strongly with Brazil in recent years. We have strengthened our embassy in Brasilia, our consulates in Sao Paulo and Rio and opened a new Consulate in Recife. We are appointing new Honorary Consuls in other cities and regions. We can play a role in the debate in Brazil. We shall make a greater effort to reach out from our embassy, especially digitally. With other countries, the UK has Annual Bilateral Colloques in which civil society debates the key issues. Two famous ones are Pontignano with Italy and Konigswinter with Germany. How about one between the UK and Brazil – perhaps the Sao Paulo Dialogue?

I have been privileged to live and work in Brazil for four and a half years and to represent the UK here. It has been a fantastic experience to visit so much of this amazing country and to see how Brazil is developing so fast and so well. It is inspiring to be with people who have such optimism, creativity and readiness to co-operate. I admire Brazil and am confident about its future. There are so many Brazilians to whom I owe so much – I shall not mention them all now except to remember Ricardo Civita, who passed away recently, from whom I learned a great deal. I salute you all and look forward to seeing Brazil go forward ever more impressively. Thank you FAAP for giving me this opportunity to speak and thank you all so much for listening.

Published 11 June 2013