The statement issued by BASIC also called on the developed nations to make good on the $30 billion pledged last year in Copenhagen to aid developing nations in “adapting” to climate change, and to transfer technology to the developing world. And they declared that intellectual property rights should not be used to block such technology transfers.
The UNFCCC talks have little to do with climate, and everything to do with reordering the economic balance of power in the world. This is also the situation in the WTO Doha Round of trade talks where the same revisionist coalition is at work. The WTO talks started in 2001 in Doha, Qatar after failing to launch in Seattle in 1999. The negotiations broke down in Cancun in 2003 and have been stalled ever since. Brazil played a leading role in producing the stalemate by rallying developing states against the agenda presented by the U.S. and EU which concentrated on opening foreign markets to more Western investment, financial services, and government procurement, as well as more “free trade” in high-end manufactured goods. These are all areas of strategic interest to developing countries who do not want to be consigned to a secondary tier of activities in low wage industries and raw material production.
Brazil demanded that the Western agenda be blocked until agricultural markets in Europe and America are opened to its exports by the ending of programs that subsidize domestic farmers. China gave Brazil strong support. At the same time, the developing bloc objected to opening its own markets on the grounds of “food security”– a subject important to many developed countries as well. The developing countries have also demanded the right to protect key industries from import competition, using the classic “infant industries” argument as well as national security concerns. But at the same time, they have demanded (again with strong Brazilian leadership) that intellectual property rights be suspended for medicines so developing countries can produce cheaper copies of Western products to replace imports.
Brazil’s diplomacy has taken even more threatening forms as it has moved into non-traditional areas like the Middle East. Brazil has formed close ties with Iran. President Lula welcomed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil only a few months after Iran’s fraudulent 2009 elections, lending his credibility as a democrat to the Tehran regime. Brazil is working with Turkey as it shifts its alignment away from the West under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan’s Islam-based Justice and Development Party has won an impressive series of popular votes. In May, Brazil and Turkey crafted a nuclear deal that would have allowed Iran to ship some of its uranium abroad for enrichment. It proved an unsuccessful ploy to head off new UN sanctions on Iran, but strengthen Brazil’s position as a leader of the anti-sanctions movement.
Brazil and its BRIC partners are now targeting “unilateral” sanctions on Iran by the U.S. and its allies. The BRIC coalition has proposed a resolution to the UN General Assembly to condemn the use of unilateral (meaning non-UNSC approved) sanctions as a matter of principle. Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim has said, “In some cases we’re even against multilateral sanctions, so for sure unilateral sanctions aren’t welcome because they’re outside the U.N. system.” Iran would be the prime beneficiary of such a resolution, but it would also help many other rogue nations.
It will be harder to get a pro-Western consensus on UNSC action in the near future. Brazil was elected to the UN Security Council last year. On Oct. 12, India and South Africa were elected without opposition for two-year terms on the UNSC. China and Russia are permanent members of the UNSC with vetoes. Thus, the entire BASIC and BRIC groups will sit on the UN’s principal policy-making body for the next year.
Nationalism is a natural and powerful political force that can provide democratic majorities for governments whose ambitions are opposed to the interests of the United States. Washington will have to get its own financial house in order, maintain its military strength, and make full use of its diplomatic leverage in a world of increasingly contentious states. Rising powers cannot always be accommodated. America must be prepared to actively defend its preeminent position in the global order.
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