Stephen Clarkson - January 2016 Download
Of all the countries identified as rising powers on the world stage, Brazil appears to have drawn considerable economic and political strength from its engagement with various forms of regionalism during the expansionist years when Lula was president. Whether by helping create a local, intra-regional entity (Mercosul) or, later, proposing a continental one (UNASUL), Brasilia appeared to have the capacity to further its own economic and political interests by generating cooperative interactions with its smaller neighbors. Subsequently it took a leading role in inter-regional negotiations between Mercosul and the European Union in the global North and between Mercosul and ASEAN in the global South. More recently still, it spread its wings by associating trans-regionally with powers that are similarly dominant within their own regions – IBSA (India, Brazil, and South Africa) and BRICS (Russia, India, China, and South Africa) which shared with it a desire to play greater roles in the major institutions of global governance. While these new associations have their inner raisons d’être, belonging to them also bolsters Brazil’s weight in such traditional multilateral organizations as the United Nations and the WTO which were previously dominated by the US-Europe-Japan triad. This working paper assesses the relative importance of these different regionalisms in Brazil’s emergence on the global stage by counterposing them with such standard explanations of a state’s global significance as its military might, economic strength, and its soft-power influence overseas. We identify how various regionalisms interact with traditional bilateral and multilateral relations in helping or hindering Brazil in its global ascent. We conclude to our surprise that regionalism has only played a minimally positive role economically. Even politically, it has on occasion become more hindrance than help in boosting Brazil into its current orbit – as its announced intention to negotiate separately with the EU suggests.