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Heads up – Embassy 29 – December 2010

In the Premier League

There’s no doubting the experience of Roberto Jaguaribe, Brazil’s new Ambassador to London, but even he admits to bowing to a superior force in Brazilian diplomacy: football.

“The best Ambassador of Brazil is Mr Football!” smiles the Ambassador, himself a fan of the beautiful game – and a pretty decent defender in his day.

“Actually, our style football says quite a lot about the country,” he says. “We play with flamboyance, but also with efficacy.”

If Brazil were a football side, for years it underperformed in the lower leagues until a decade ago, when it began to rise to the premier league.

Ambassador Jaguaribe credits this remarkable transformation to three things, firstly to the work of presidents Cardoso and Lula in tackling hyperinflation and nailing down macroeconomic stability.

Another achievement, which has taken place during the Lula administration, is changing Brazil into a more inclusive society. “The social policies of President Lula, lifted 30 million people out of poverty. Half the population are middle class or above which was unimaginable two decades ago.”

A third reason for Brazil’s continuing success is, as the Ambassador describes it, the “political maturity” of Brazilian society, demonstrated recently during the presidential elections.

“One of the most important achievements is a very broad consensus about what we should be doing,” says Jaguaribe. This includes removing bottlenecks created by inadequate infrastructure, lack of skills, burdensome red tape and an inadequate tax system.

But the Ambassador is confident that Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s President-elect, first woman president and a tough one-time guerilla fighter, will be able to continue outgoing President Lula’s legacy. “President Dilma is a formidable lady; she is a woman of enormous character and determination who has proven her competence as a manager.”

Along with Brazil’s growing economic might comes greater global clout. Brazil’s multi-faceted culture – with roots both in the West and Africa (and many other cultures besides) makes it the ideal bridge between the developed and developing worlds, says the Ambassador.

“Brazil is very well placed to be an honest broker on the world stage,” says the Ambassador, was Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs during a rapid expansion of Brazilian diplomatic activity under President Lula, and has seen how Brazil’s culture of negotiation could make it an asset in an enlarged UN Security Council.

While enlargement is a complex issue, it’s a process that needs to be undertaken, stresses Jaguaribe: “At the moment the UN is inadequate because it’s not representative. When it’s not representative, it loses legitimacy and when it loses legitimacy it loses efficacy and ultimately relevance. We have seen that changing from G7 to the G20 has been a definite improvement because global economic problems cannot be tackled when many of the important actors are not there.”

Climate change is just one of the many global issues where Brazil’s voice needs to be heard, especially as the custodian of the Amazon. And it’s a responsibility Brazilians take very seriously, says the Ambassador: “It is a convergent perception among all Brazilians – not just the Government – that we have a treasure that we should strive to maintain.”

Important strides have been made to curb illegal deforestation, he adds, dismissing accusations that Brazil’s burgeoning ethanol industry poses a threat to the forests. “In Brazil we have the largest agricultural frontier in the world – 400 million hectares of non-forest arable land. The expansion of ethanol is in those areas.”

Biofuels – along with hydroelectricity – form a key part of Brazil’s renewable energy matrix: “About 47 per cent of the energy used in Brazil is renewable compared to the OECD average of about 12 per cent,” explains Jaguaribe.

What’s more, recent discoveries of offshore oil and gas give Brazil the energy security it will need to sustain projected annual economic growth of about 5-6 per cent.

So with Brazil poised for rapid development, the Ambassador wants to make sure his country is firmly on the British radar. “For a while we slipped off but the Coalition Government is taking a greater interest in Brazil and I want to enhance that.”

In particular he is keen to tap the expertise in the British oil and gas industry who have years of experience in drilling North Sea oil. Other areas ripe for investment include infrastructure development as well as the creative, high-tech and manufacturing sectors, he adds. “I am also interested in strengthening academic ties, especially in science because the British system is good at linking research and industry.”

As far as cultural collaboration goes, the Ambassador intends to capitalize on two global events – the 2016 Olympics and the 2014 Football World Cup – to capture the British public imagination.

Jaguaribe is uniquely qualified for these multiple tasks: a hard-headed negotiator, he has been Brazil’s Director General of Trade Promotion (1998-2000) and has participated in trade talks, from the Uruguay Round (1987-90) to Geneva, where he negotiated crucial intellectual property rights for Brazil as well as nuclear disarmament. He’s also served in Washington and has a wealth of experience outside the foreign ministry.

Brazil has an ambitious agenda but with diplomats of Ambassador Jaguaribe’s caliber on the team, it can’t be long before the country challenges for a spot in the champion’s league of nations.

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HE Mr Roberto Jaguaribe

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