Wed. Feb 26th, 2020

Trump's tariffs lead Bolsonaro's Brazil to look at China

The surprising decision of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, to restore Brazil's steel and aluminum tariffs can be used by China to further strengthen its ties with the South American country, which already has its largest trading partner in Beijing.

The approach to the United States tried by the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, since he came to power last January 1 has not paid off, according to different analysts consulted by Efe.

The last blow, Trump's announcement to recover the tariffs on metals from Brazil, which is among the largest exporters of steel to the US, and from Argentina, on charges of intentionally devaluing their currencies to harm US farmers .

The dollar has appreciated almost 8.50% so far this year compared to the Brazilian real.

Bolsonaro responded Wednesday to his admired Trump by denying that his government is "artificially increasing" the price of the dollar and pointed to the main cause of the US trade war. and China

However, Trump's new onslaught could be detrimental even to American steel producers, as they need Brazilian semi-manufactured products, according to the Aço Brasil Institute.

In the midst of these tensions, China once again positions itself as the important ally that it has been in Brazil since 2009, when it became its largest trading partner, a status it has maintained since then.

Bolsonaro prefers the photo with Trump, although the apparent lack of reciprocity has forced him to look with other eyes at China.


In less than a year in power, the ultra-rightist leader has carried out a series of measures to approach Trump, with whom he shares a political ideology.

Among them, increase the limit of ethanol imports, a sector in which the United States is one of the main exporters, allow them to use their space base in Alcántara (northeast), and benefit their tourists by withdrawing the visa requirement to visit or do business in the country.

Brazil also agreed to renounce the special treatment it enjoys in the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, in exchange for strong US support. for his entry into the OECD, the so-called "club of rich countries".

Many winks for an almost zero benefit: Brazilians still need a visa to go to the United States, support for their entry into the OECD has been tenuous – Trump gave priority to Argentina and Romania – and as icing, tariffs on steel and aluminum.

And that the trade balance between the two countries is favorable to the United States with a surplus of 1,016 million dollars between January and November, according to official data.

"Trump is not a reliable ally, despite sharing the same ideological spectrum," Vinicius Vieira, professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation private studies center (FGV), tells Efe.

In his opinion, the US president "tries to serve his voters" and "does not have an ally so strong as to contradict the economic interests of his electoral base."

For Lucas Leite, professor of international relations at the Armando Alvares Penteado Faculty (FAAP), it was a "mistake of Brazil to believe that he had a special relationship with the United States."


Unlike the US, the Asian giant has shown interest in strengthening its relations with Brazil and the frictions between Bolsonaro and Trump can unite them even more.

The largest economy in South America has a trade balance surplus with China of about 25 billion dollars until November. This without counting on the increase in meat exports, whose consumption has recently increased in China.

Bolsonaro's official visit to Beijing last October sealed his reconciliation with the communist regime, which he attacked harshly during the 2018 election campaign, and then held out his hand once he assumed power.

For its part, the Government of Xi Jinping announced millionaire investments in Brazil during the dome of the BRICS, which was held last month in Brasilia, for key sectors such as infrastructure.

"China can be a great investment bridge and the Brazilian economy needs investments," Vieira explains.

Beijing could also increase its presence in the telecommunications sector, with the auction of the 5G lines scheduled for next year; and in the extractive industry, especially in the pre-salt, the region off the coast of Rio de Janeiro with huge reserves of oil and gas.

"Bolsonaro has adopted a more pragmatic tone because he perceives that the one who is going to save Brazil is China, who already saved him from the last oil auction" in the pre-sale, in which only Brazilian and Chinese companies participated and less than expected was collected. , says Leite.

"China has its interests," Vieira says, but at least "he has not stabbed Bolsonaro in the back."

Carlos Meneses Sánchez

. (tagsToTranslate) tariffs (t) Trump (t) Brazil (t) Bolsonaro (t) China

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