The ‘Emergent Brazil’ growth model is reaching its limits. Its main engines have been slowing significantly since the beginning of the global financial and economic crisis. Even its much-praised predictable macroeconomic policy has been eroded by political interference. Inflationary pressures are growing and GDP performance is anaemic. As ominous, Brazil cannot compensate for its domestic deficiencies with an export drive. Commodity exports are suffering with the world economic slow-down and the manufacturing industries’ competitiveness is in sharp decline. Brazil has put all its trade negotiation eggs into the South American and WTO baskets, and now its export market share is threatened by the Doha Round paralysis, the Latin American Alianza del Pacífico, and the US-led initiatives for a Trans-Pacific Partnership and a trade and investment agreement with the EU.
Paradoxically, this alarming situation opens a window of opportunity. There is a mounting national consensus on the need to tackle head-on the country’s and its industries’ lack of competitiveness. That means finding a solution to the much-decried ‘Brazil Cost’ and stimulating private-sector investment. It also entails an aggressive trade-negotiating stance in order to secure better access to foreign markets and to foster more competition in the domestic one. The most promising near-term goal would be the conclusion of the EU–Mercosur trade talks. A scenario to overcome the paralysis of these negotiations could trail two parallel paths: bilateral EU–Brazil agreements on ‘anything but trade’ combined with a sequencing of the EU–Mercosur talks where each member of the South American bloc could adopt faster or slower liberalisation commitments and schedules.
Alfredo G.A. Valladão is Professor at The Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA – Sciences Po) and President of the EUBrasil Advisory Board.