Brazil’s Foreign Relations, Mauro Vieira, paid a visit to Mexico last week, with an eye toward strengthening commercial and industrial ties between Latin America’s two largest economies.
During his two-day visit, Vieira was accompanied by Brazilian Minister of Development, Industry and Trade Armando Monteiro, and met with his Mexican counterpart Claudia Ruiz Massieu to explore new areas of bilateral cooperation and to broaden a two-way complementary trade accord signed in 2002.
Vieira’s visit came on the heels of a state visit be Dilma Rousseff last May, when the Brazilian president laid out the virtues of closer binational economic and commercial ties, touting the need for prioritizing the bilateral friendship and “not turning your back” on a historical strategic partner.
But while there are certainly benefits to come with increased trade and investment with the Land of the Palms, it should be remembered that it is not Mexico that is turning its back on Rousseff, but rather her own people.
Late last year, Brazil’s Supreme Court cleared the way for impeachment of the leftist leader after allegations of fiscal mismanagement and the improper use of public funds came to light.
And while the impeachment proceedings are currently temporarily on hold, it is important to consider the root cause of Brazil’s current financial woes and what role Rousseff played in transforming what had been the most vibrant economy in the region into one that is now in serious recession (it is expected to implode by at least 3 percent this year), with a debt that has been downgraded to junk status.
That Rousseff’s administration is incompetent is self-evident.
In just five years in office (she began a second term in January 2015), Brazil’s first woman president has managed to alienate Congress, exacerbate the Petrobras scandal and raise inflation to double digits.
Unemployment is also ticking upward and, at last count, Rousseff’s approval rating was hovering at about 10 percent.
Investor confidence is practically nonexistent and the Zika virus outbreak is threatening to derail Brazil’s grand-slam Summer Olympics in August, so the stage is set for Brazil’s economic perspective to go from bad to worse.
Brazil is right to be courting new investors and trade partners, and Mexico and Brazil have maintained a sibling-like relationship for a very long time, alternately patting each other on the back and competing for top-dog status in the Latin American arena.
Combined bilateral trade, which reached a zenith of $10 billion in 2012, has since been moving progressively downward to less than $8 billion in 2015.
During Vieira’s visit, Secretary Ruiz Massieu was quoted as saying that “Latin America can only be strengthened by the concerted action of Mexico and Brazil,” adding that by strengthening dialogue based on trust and dispelling myths to “overcome a decades-long lack of mutual understanding,” the ties between the two nations would increase in all fields.
Ruiz Massieu went on to say that “when Mexico and Brazil play together, the world wins.”
Increased bilateral commercial and economic ties could indeed benefit both parties, although Brazil stands to gain more out of the deal than Mexico.
Mexico should accept Brazil’s invitation to work closer together for mutual benefit, but Mexico should not forget that, as in any game playing, there is always a party that holds the upper hand, and in this particular case, that party is Mexico.