The 10 most popular articles in 2015: “How Brazil loses the battle for international talent” and more
The competition for high-end talent is set to become a major international battleground as nations around the world try to enhance productivity and avoid being left behind as eternal commodity providers. Against all evidence about the positive impact immigrants can have on innovation and the economy as a whole, Brazil wastes a golden opportunity, doing far too little to actively attract international talent.
In 1900, 7.3 percent of Brazil's population were immigrants — today it is 0.3 percent and declining. By comparison, countries such the United Kingdom and the United States count with a foreign population of more than 10 percent and, in Australia, it surpasses 20 percent. Brazil could absorb 50,000 refugees without causing a surge of xenophobia; and it would help the country's economy by reducing Brazil’s chronic shortage of skilled workers and boosting innovation. Financial support could be requested from richer countries unwilling to take refugees — such as Japan, China and Saudi Arabia.
The history of the BRICS grouping can be divided into three phases. In the first phase (2001-2007), "BRIC" (then still without South Africa) stood for little more than an investment category invented by Goldman Sachs. The second phase (2008-2014) saw the emergence of the BRICS as a political platform, though of largely informal nature. 2015 began the transition to a third phase, marked by a process of institutionalization and the launch of both the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Agreement. Institutionalization generates ample opportunities, but also global expectations, making it easier to judge the grouping's performance and capacity to address global challenges.
As every crisis, today’s situation represents an opportunity. The only way to convince the President of Itamaraty’s importance will be to show that the Ministry can help to achieve her overall policy goals — only then will he be able to solve the current budgetary restrictions and boost morale among Brazil’s diplomats. Generating broader support among public opinion makers for a stronger foreign policy will also help convince Dilma Rousseff that change is urgently needed. Success would help protect Brazilian foreign policy in the long term from the whims of future Presidents oblivious to international affairs. Vieira has his work cut out.
My ten predictions about international politics in 2015: Long-term estrangement between Russia and the West, the G7 unite, China goes global, the US is back on track, optimism about the Summit of the Americas in Panama, muddling through at the COP-21 in Paris, more trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, and possible opposition victories in Argentina and Venezuela.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) can be understood in the context of a growing number of Chinese-led initiatives that, in their entirety, create a "parallel order" to complement and possibly someday rival existing US-led structures. In the end, the prevailing deals — either the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the RCEP with allow either Washington or Beijing to act as a regional agenda-setter, shaping the architecture of economic cooperation in the Southeast and East Asian regions, and helping secure economic interests.
Just like last year, Brazil is, of the world's top ten economies, the only country without a single participant at the 2015 Munich Security Conference. Equally telling, Latin America is the only region without any representation during the debates. Brazil's decision to stay away undermines its ambition to gain a seat at the table when the world's key decision-makers discuss how to make the world a safer place.
Brazil's economy is in tatters and no foreign policy in the world could fix it without profound domestic reforms — and yet, a wisely designed foreign policy can make an important contribution. That implies reviving Mercosur and actively pursuing free-trade agreements (see #5), making BNDES' foreign lending more transparent and effective, and clearly articulating to international investors how Brazil seeks to get out of the economic mess (a plan to move up 30 spots in the World Bank's Doing Business Ranking would be a good start). It also includes aggressively seeking funding from the BRICS-led New Development Bank, restarting the scholarship program for Brazilian students abroad (but limiting it to engineers), facilitating immigration rules and actively attracting skilled migrants (from places like Syria) and slashing cumbersome visa rules to increase the number of foreign tourists.
It is of course true that the BRICS disagree on many issues — as would be expected from five unique countries in different parts of the world. It is also true that they regard themselves as rivals, and Sino-Indian ties are the most complicated of all. Yet frequent disagreement does not keep countries from cooperating or being part of the same clubs. Germany and Italy are fiercely opposed when it comes to UN Security Council reform, and Germany and France sharply disagreed over military intervention in Libya. The United Kingdom and France, for their part, held opposing views on such important matters as the military intervention in Iraq. The United States opposed China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and Britain was the first Western country to join it.
Brazil and Peru are home to one of the world's most organized civil societies, and environmental NGOs have already started voicing their concern about the project's potential negative impact on the Amazon rainforest and indigenous tribes living in the region. The Trans-Amazonian highway, built in the 1970s, accelerated the destruction of the forest as it provided illegal loggers easy access to previously isolated regions. After all, 95% of deforestation in the Amazon occurs within 5 kilometers of a road.