Monday, November 10, 2008

Brazil and the Washington Consensus

Over the last several weeks, Brazil's leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been lobbying critical actors in the financial regulatory arena for the upcoming international convocation of richer nations to discuss the world financial crisis. This week he has been to Italy. See Lula defende na Itália revisão das regras do Consenso de Washington, Agencia de Noticias Brasil Árabe, Nov. 10, 2008. Lula's objective has been to subvert the so-called Washington Consensus. For a discussion in the context of its Marxits-Leninist critique (form Cuba), see Larry Catá Backer, Ideologies of Globalization and Sovereign Debt: Cuba and the IMF, Pennsylvania State International Law Review, Vol. 24:497-561 (2006). He would substitute something like a watered down version of the new economic abandoned in the 1970s and representing the then current socialist starte centered control economy model of transnational economic governance. See Mohammed Bedjaoui, Towards a New International Economic Order ( New York: Holmes & Meier, 1979); Neil Días Karunaratne, Foreign Aid, New Economic Order and Basic Hman Needs, in New International Economic Order: A Third World Perspective 135 (Pradip K. Ghosh, ed., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984).

Thus, Lula has suggested:
O presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defendeu hoje (10), na Itália, a revisão das regras contidas no Consenso de Washington. Em pronunciamento à imprensa, ao lado do presidente italiano Giorgio Napolitano, Lula enfatizou que o foco da economia deve ser o trabalhador e a produção e não a especulação financeira.
Lula defende na Itália revisão das regras do Consenso de Washington, supra. The code terms are obvious--a Bretton Woods style governance framework favors "speclators;" a fairer system ought to favor "production" and "workers."
“Penso que essa crise é uma oportunidade extraordinária para fazermos uma reflexão sobre tudo que fizemos de errado a partir do Consenso de Washington. E criarmos um outro consenso em que o ser humano, o trabalhador a produção agrícola, industrial, cultural científica e tecnológica sejam a razão de ser da economia e não a especulação financeira”, disse Lula depois de conversa reservada de 40 minutos com o presidente italiano.
Id. Indeed, he has argued that the present Breeton Woods systems has poroduced a casino instead of a suitably regulated system of finance. "O presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva voltou a afirmar hoje (10) que o sistema financeiro internacional precisa de regulação dos Estados e que não deve ser visto como um “cassino”." Lula reafirma que sistema financeiro internacional precisa de regulação dos Estados, Agencia de Noticias Brasil Árabe, November 10, 2008 (President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva again affirmed today (10) that the international financial system needs to regulate the states and should not be seen as a "casino").

But more than that--the upcoming international conclave, for Brazil, represents a opportunity to aggressively pursue a policy of inclusion at the highest levels of transnational financial policy. See Jeremy Pelofsky, Financial Crisis Summit Set for November 15: White House, Reuters, October 22, 2008. National advantage at thios conference appears to be the real goal. "“Precisamos reformar as instâncias decisórias internacionais e atribuir mais voz, vez e voto aos países em desenvolvimento, sob pena de não dispormos de mecanismos adequados para combater a crise”, disse." Lula defende na Itália revisão das regras do Consenso de Washington, supra. ("We need to reform the international decision making bodies and give greater voice, means and vote to developing countries, to acoid not making use of appropriate mechanisms to combat the crisis," he said"). Plus the opportunity to infuse the market driven system with substantially more state control. Though Brazil may have a smaller voice than others, any state controlled system in which it participates will provide Brazil with a greater voice in transnational financial affairs than it currently enjoys.

And then the threat: "“Vou fazer uma convocação para que os países ricos coloquem mais dinheiro para ajudar os países pobres como, por exemplo, o Haiti e os países africanos. Precisamos ter a consciência de que ou os países mais ricos ajudam os países mais pobres a se desenvolver ou vamos enfrentar um problema muito sério de migração”, alertou. " Lula reafirma que sistema financeiro internacional precisa de regulação dos Estados,supra. In the absence of a financial system geaered to the transfer of wealth and technology to the less developed states, the rich states can expect a continued rush of migration to the devleoped states. An interesting play on the race and culture card in the context of both a push for Brazilian involvement in world financial decision making at the highest level and a bid for the devolution of technology to the less developed states. Brazil may live to rue this position itself. Its recent fiasco in Bolivia--where it was treated like a first world state as its petroleum resources were nationalized--or effectively so--until the razilians paid a handsome ransom should serve as a reminder that it will not be able to have it both ways either. It is not clear though, that just recently attaining a higher level of development it is willing to share its technological and natiural resources wealth with its poorer neighbors. Indeed, Brazil's track record suggest the opposite. Perhaps that explains the high pitch of the Lula public statements abroad. It is one thing to have lots of photo ops with Fideel Catro, it is quite another to use the immense wealth of the state in a way that Lula expects his developed state colleagues to begin to effect.

Of course, Lula had another problem. For years he had been viewed as a loyal follower of the American line in finance. And he and Brazil had been richly rewarded for that effort. But politician that he is--it was clear that the time had come to play to a different fiddler. And Brazil is still unhappy with the treatment of the United States in its efforts to create a regional trading empire without the full and more equal participation of the Brazilians. And thus, over the course of the last two years, as Bush's popularity has declined, Lula began to cultivate the Cubans--eager to have him for their own reasons. Now Lula, once the great radical free market globalist, has retooled himself as a champion of the poor. A wolf in sheep's clothing. perhaps, despite his working class origins. For all the rhetoric, Brazil is no longer the "poor little big child" either in need of help or at the forefront of socialist discourse or action. It stands, with China and India, on its own. And it is effectively committed to markets. Thus an irony--even as he spoke of the poor and a "new economic order in Italy" he was soliciting direct foreign investment of the traditional sort--from the source of a large number of a sub-ethnic population of Brazil. "En declaraciones a la radio de su país, Lula explicó que su viaje a Italia tiene la intención de abrir el camino a inversionistas, principalmente en la construcción." Lula pide un nuevo orden económico mundial, Granma Internacional, Nov. 11, 2008 ("In a radio address from his country, Lula explained that his trip to Italy was intended to open the door for investors, principally in construction.").

Thus the mixed signals from Brazil--seeking a place at the table of the financial elite and still clinging to a rhetoric of the have-nots. It will be interesting to see how long Lula can play this game. If he is lucky, a combination of American ignorance, a distorted sense of short term advantage and the exigencies of the chaos that will be the upcoming set of meetings to redraw global finance governance (with the likelihood of success of the Estates General in 1789), Brazil may well have its cake (there is no bread) and eat it too! While talking about the care of the poor, it will extend its own extra territoriual power as a developed state and a bridge between the old line developed states and those developing state still left behind.

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