Brazil's high-profile participation in last week's BRICS Summit in New Delhi marked the beginning of a new foray by the Portuguese-speaking South American nation into Asia. China has become Brazil's largest trading partner and bilateral trade grew from $2 billion five years ago to $77 billion last year. Brazil's trade with India has grown to $15 billion a year, and intra-BRICS trade is expected to double to $500 billion by next year. The Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs of Brazil's Ministry of External Affairs, Maria Edileuza Fontenele Reis, travelled to Kathmandu this week after attending the BRICS summit to inaugurate Brazil's new embassy here. She spoke to Nepali Times about Brazil's expectations from BRICS and the Rio+20 environment summit in June.
Maria Fontenele Reis: We are so pleased we could finally open our embassy here, and we want to start launching concrete projects with Nepal in agriculture, human resource training, and to share knowledge on trans-boundary projects like Itaipu. We want to promote Brazilian investment in hydropower, and make Lower Arun a model project so it can send a positive message to other foreign investors in Nepal.
How would you assess the accomplishments of the fourth BRICS summit in New Delhi?
We think it has really enhanced the capacity of the world's emerging markets to make a strong statement of cohesion in geopolitics, trade, finance and environment negotiations. The main focus of the Summit was to fight for a more inclusive and representative world order and bolster the demand of rich countries to take effective measures to ensure global economic recovery. We are moving gradually, but solidly, to act together to reform global financial institutions like the World Bank, IMF, re-examine the quota system and look at UN reform. We had a very successful coordination in the Security Council in 2011. In New Delhi we decided to set up a working group to establish a BRICS development bank to promote sustainable development and infrastructure. There was also an agreement among our central banks to stimulate growth in investments and trade in our own currencies.
There has been some criticism that the Summit was dominated by China and Russia?
I was present during the negotiations, and I can say that is not true. Decisions are only taken by consensus, and BRICS member countries all have very strong and independent foreign policies. For example it was because of our insistence that the final declaration took up the Palestine issue so strongly, and on Syria it was Brazil that pushed for a condemnation of the killings of unarmed civilians, otherwise the declaration would have been equally critical of both sides. We are not an anti-western grouping, we stand for the twin pillars of coordinating our political position in the international arena like UN, G20, or WTO, and also strengthening trade and cooperation within BRICS.
What are the chances of a breakthrough at the Rio+20 conference on the environment in Brazil in June?
In 1992 we hosted the first global environment summit when it was not fashionable to talk about the environment. Twenty years later, we want to evaluate progress and look not just at climate change but also at sustainable development and promotion of a green economy in the context of poverty alleviation. Rio+20 is occurring after the Conference in Durban last year and before the Conference on Biodiversity in New Delhi in October. We want to examine the ecological, economic and social aspects of global climate change. After Copenhagen, Brazil passed a law to reduce its carbon emission by 38 per cent and protect the Amazon rainforest. We need a paradigm shift in the way we define sustainability so that forest-dwellers' rights to a better life can also be ensured.
Brazil keen on hydropower
Chinese flavour, Indian curry, SHYAM SARAN
The BRICS summit in New Delhi showed that China is emerging as the pre-eminent partner in the group