Sometimes it seems that Brazil has one foot inside and the other outside the Forum. There are those who say they have both feet out. The Ambassador in Beijing rejects the idea and explains the Brazilian position.
MB May 2020 Special Report | Forum Macau: 17 years, old enough?
In one of the rare texts published in Brazil on the initiative of Forum Macau, researcher Isabel Veloso writes: “Forum Macau is harmful to Brazilian interests, as it strengthens China’s presence in the African countries where Brazil has more relations, the PSC. This is one of the factors to which resistance can be attributed Itamaraty [Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs] to actively participate in the Forum.”
Still, according to this doctoral student (2015) of the Institute for Social and Political Studies, University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, “Brazil is currently losing several contracts in the PSC due to the difficulty of competing with the advantages offered by China. Supporting the Forum Macau would be the same as supporting the expansion of the space that China has been conquering in these countries of great strategic interest for Brazil” [O Fórum Macau e a CPLP nas Estratégias de Cooperação Sul-Sul da China e do Brasil na África].
It is public that, throughout these 17 years, Brazil has been a minor participatory partner in the Forum, but the researcher’s words draw a much more negative picture than that which is generally known.
That is why we asked the Ambassador of Brazil to China to comment on the statement in question.
“We do not see the Forum Macau in any way as damaging to Brazilian interests,” Paulo Estivallet begins by answering to Macau Business.
The diplomat, recalling that “Brazil accounts for more than 80 per cent of China-Portuguese-speaking countries trade,” states that his country “is interested in participating in this initiative, whose primary objective is to facilitate business and investments between member countries.”
More: “Brazil values and recognizes China’s efforts to promote rapprochement with Portuguese-speaking countries through this mechanism, which offers, in particular to the smallest participating countries, a privileged forum for dialogue with China and facilitated access to that country’s broad market.”
However, – Ambassador Estivallet emphasizes – “Brazil acts in a collaborative and transparent manner in its participation in mechanisms of political and economic consultation as the Forum Macau, while cultivating a position of independence anchored in national interests and general principles of international law.”
The representative of Brazil in China adds that “since his creation and within the limits of its capabilities, Brazil has been seeking to participate in the initiatives promoted by the Macau Forum, both in the economic-commercial field and in the areas of cultural, educational and linguistic promotion.”
In his statements to Macau Business, Paulo Estivallet seems to favour the cultural area at the expense of the Forum’s economic role. It is, at least, what can be deduced from the diplomat’s response to the request for a balance sheet of 17 years: “Since its creation, the Forum has been promoting a series of actions aimed, not only at promoting trade and investments, but also at training human resources and cultural and linguistic diffusion. ” Estivallet highlights in his response several initiatives of cooperation and exchange in the cultural, educational and even sports areas.
The Brazilian fund
In 2017, alongside a seminar on Trade in Services between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, co-organized by Forum Macau and the Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, the then Brazilian deputy minister for Trade and Services responded in this way , when asked about the role the China-Portuguese-speaking Countries Development Cooperation Fund could play: “We do not know about the existence of this fund here in Macau.”
Obviously, Ambassador Estivallet is not unaware of the Fund. And because he knows it, he shares his criticisms with Macau Business readers: “having been seven years since its creation, we would expect the fund to be fully operational and with more projects in progress.”
“The opening of the fund’s capital and greater cooperation with similar institutions in Portuguese-speaking countries are also very desirable measures for us,” adds the diplomat.
In this context, it is important to add that China and Brazil have their own fund, created in 2015, operational since 2017, and with an allocation of USD20 billion.