Brazil and the Brics

2013-03-26 00:00

WE Brazilians were hit by Brics some time in the last decade, and we never asked for it.

And for years we never really cared about the honour of being the new stars in the global economy.

Being grouped in the same category as China, which really deserves the title of saviour of the world economy, was always a little odd.

Maybe it is the constellation of organisations and acronyms in our foreign policy. Brazil belongs to just too many forums, initiatives, areas and markets.

We are in the Mercosur, along with Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and now Venezuela. We belong to the Organisation of American States and to the Ibero-American Organisation.

More recently, we have helped create Unasur, a talking shop for the southern part of the Americas. And the Word Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and of course the United Nations.

So what credit could we give to a clever way created by economist Jim O’Neill to explain to his clients at Goldman Sachs how the axis of the world economy was changing?

Ten years ago, if you went about the streets of São Paulo or Rio asking the man on the bus or the economist in the multinational about Brics, you would be met with the glance a Martian would give someone asking about the Formula 1 championship.

Today, the economist in the multinational cares a lot about Brics, and the man on the bus may have read about it too.

We are proud to be a Bric. We have even joined our Bric brothers India and South Africa in creating a spin-off, the Ibsa forum (but I doubt that the man on the bus knows anything about that one either).

It has something to do with Lula da Silva. The former president (2003-2010) had dreams of grandiosity, delusional sometimes, but quite effective too.

He grasped a simple idea: Brazil is growing and will keep doing so for quite some time. More people are becoming consumers. To keep advancing as a society, our territory and economy are not enough.

We must be a strong part of the global community, open new markets and change the way decisions are made.

He looked around and found other countries in the same situation. Brazil jumped on the Brics bandwagon.

His successor, Dilma Rousseff, is not nearly as interested in foreign policy as Lula was, but she kept the arrangement. And the annual Brics forum keeps going on.

It is easy to see why.

Combined, the economy of Brics is a formidable $11 trillion, enough at least to be heard in economic discussions. It makes sense when the topic is capital flows or the world recession, but Brics now wants more.

It wants to become political. And that brings to light the fact that the group still seems unnatural in so many ways.

For Brazilian diplomacy, it is more than a little discomforting to be in the same forum as China, a brutal dictatorship that behaves irresponsibly in the world arena in so many ways. Or Russia, an oligarchy that is democratic in name only.

Even India and South Africa, our sister democracies, raise questions.

Do we really have that much in common with the wonderfully chaotic Indians, a fascinating but not quite Westernised society?

As for the South Africans, do they really deserve to be in the same league, with an economy that amounts to 20% of the Russian and Indian, 17% of the Brazilian and only six percent of the Chinese?

It becomes clear that South Africa has been included more as a geopolitical gesture than for economics. And that reinforces the fact that Brics is slowly trying to be counted as a political force. South Africa, for all its problems, is still the continent’s economic and democratic star.

The reasoning was: if Brics really wants to become a representative of the developing world, it must have an African arm. South Africa was the natural choice, even though there were those who favoured Nigeria or Egypt.

This is the biggest risk confronting Brics today and the surest path to irrelevance.

At the Durban summit, time and energy will be wasted with things like a declaration about the Syrian war, at a moment when Russia and China are some of the last friends of the discredited Assad regime.

It is not hard to predict the impact of political statements such as these on Western capitals.

In the best case, indifference. In the worst, condemnation. Brics should avoid trying to become the UN of the poor, at least while two-thirds of their members are corrupt autocracies. Instead, they should stick to what the group does best: the economy, the economy, the economy.

Fábio Zanini is the foreign editor of Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil’s largest daily newspaper (

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.