What a right-leaning Bolsonaro presidency in Brazil means for India

Bolsonaro during his first-round campaign. Source: www.bolsonaro.com.br

New Delhi: Brazilians last week elected far-right candidate Jair Messias Bolsonaro as the next President of Brazil. A quick internet search leads to hundreds of articles that criticize Bolsonaro for his supposed homophobic, misogynist, and racist statements, but a deep dive into his election manifestation this year and his proposed policies reveals that his conservative social views have been exaggerated, most of the times fake news spread by the opposition, and are secondary to his interest in rebuilding the Brazilian economy.

Bolsonaro has promised that he will be the face of change for Brazil. He has also promised that he will put Latin America’s largest economy back on the right track. Some of his ideas include implementation of pro-business policies, privatization of select public companies, reducing crime, and bringing down taxes. All these are positive signs not only for Brazil but also for countries with strong relationships with Brazil. One among them is India. Trade between India and Brazil stands at USD 8.57 billion, recovering from a slump in 2015–16 and 2016–17 because of the economic slowdown in Brazil.

These numbers will likely grow in the near future as a result of the expected business-friendly policies of both Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Narendra Modi in India. Brazil is one of the most important trading partners of India in the LAC region, and bilateral trade has increased substantially in the last two decades. A plethora of sectors have seen investments between India and Brazil. While Brazilian companies have invested in automobiles, IT, mining, energy, biofuels, and footwear sectors in India, Indian companies have invested in Brazilian sectors such as IT, pharmaceutical, energy, agri-business, mining, engineering, auto sectors, etc.

India-Brazil trade stats. Source: Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India

Here, let us take a quick look at the Indo-Brazil relationship under Bolsonaro:

Trade agreements

Bolsonaro has proposed to reduce many import rates and the non-tariff barriers, parallelly establishing new bilateral agreements. It will be a golden opportunity for India, which does not have a bilateral trade agreement with Brazil, to sign one while a pro-business government is in power. Talks for which may commence during the upcoming high-level visit by India to South America.

Privatization

Bolsonaro has promised to privatize different Brazilian sectors such as Energy, Infrastructure, etc., while also de-bureaucratizing the entire bidding process. Indian companies have recently started to win big public tenders in Brazil and will be investing big in the market. Thus, these will only create more opportunities for Indian companies to explore the Brazilian market further.

China

Jair Bolsonaro has criticized China throughout his campaign saying that “China is not buying in Brazil, but China is buying Brazil.” He also visited Taiwan earlier this year leaving the Chinese Embassy in Brasilia to throw tantrums. The USD 74 billion trade between China and Brazil is poised to move south, which will make for an advantage to India.

Diplomacy

Novo Itamaraty,” meaning New Itamaraty, has been in all of Bolsonaro’s election manifestos and in his victory speech on Sunday. Itamaraty is the Brazilian External Affairs Ministry. Bolsonaro has vowed to change Brazilian foreign policy to be friendlier with right-leaning governments. India with its right of center government can rejoice. Also, this is the right moment for India to initiate talks on visa reciprocity with Brazil. It is most likely that India and a couple of other emerging economies might soon benefit from Bolsonaro’s policies. Once again, this might be taken up during the upcoming high-level visit by India to South America.

Bolsonaro during his visit to Taiwan. Source: www.bolsonaro.com.br

Terrorism

Bolsonaro has been a strict advocate against radical religious terrorist outfits. He has often highlighted and shared how his ideology aligns with that of the USA and Israel. He has positioned himself and his government strictly against terrorism and extremism of all sorts. Thus, India has a good friend in Bolsonaro in the fight against terrorism.

Tourism

Reducing crime is ranked as one of the top agenda items for Bolsonaro. In the coming years, Indian tourists will be able to enjoy the beautiful Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, cheer for their football team, visit the Amazon rainforest or just chill on the beaches of Maragogi without any fear for their safety.

In conclusion, India should consider shaping its policies towards Brazil to match with those of the new Brazilian President-elect, Bolsonaro and his government. Indian government should consider reaching out to Bolsonaro’s team keeping in mind the areas, sectors for cooperation and geopolitics while highlighting its contributions to the high-technology sector and the fact that Indian businesses, in contrast to China, are partners and actually create jobs in Brazil, thereby adding value to the Brazilian economy. This year, India and Brazil celebrate 70 years of their relationship. It is time for India and Brazil to take their relationship to the next level.