Friday, 28 March 2008

Putting the 'B' back into 'BRIC'

A conversation with a colleague from Brazil this week led us to wonder where the ‘B’ has gone in ‘BRIC’. Most of us are aware of the Goldman Sachs designation of the newly emerging economies – the ‘BRIC’ economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). The main thesis of our discussion was that, whilst China, India, and Russia receive a lot of attention in the western press, Brazil is almost ignored in a comparative sense.

I was left wondering if this is the case, so I conducted my own crude and extremely rough and ready survey of the press. In The Economist, since 1997, there have been 2,282 pieces on Brazil. This compares with 3,762 on India, 4,640 on Russia, and 6,845 on China. In order to adjust for a possible continental bias, we conducted the same survey for the same period on the US magazine Foreign Affairs. The results were similar to The Economist. Brazil featured in 355 articles in Foreign Affairs. This compares with 603 on India, 868 on Russia, and 1,076 on China. On the face of it, there is a case to say that Brazil is being ignored in the western press.

Is this justified? At one level it is. We did not include Brazil as a potential global player in our America 2025 project because, within this time frame, there is little to suggest that Brazil is likely to become a major geopolitical force. Brazil does have vast potential in terms of resources, but it lacks the population mass of, say, China and India; and it lacks the military tradition of, say, Russia. However, Brazil is part of MERCOSUR, which some see as a precursor of a South American version of the EU, and which would allow Brazil to develop some mass geopolitically.

Geopolitics is not the whole picture. If we were to discount Brazil, we would do so at our peril. Goldman Sachs put the ‘B’ into BRIC for a reason – the enormous potential of the Brazilian economy. An article in The Economist last week extolled the virtues of the prudent economic policies of the Brazilian government (see article). The evidence in favour of the Brazilian economy is starting to mount. It has started to develop global corporations (see article), it is becoming an energy superpower through ethanol based biofuels derived from sugar cane (see article), and there are also offshore oil deposits too! (see article) It is these factors that have led some to speculate that Brazil is in a good position to withstand a major downturn in the world economy. (see article).

An optimistic view of Brazil in the future would point to the further development of the Brazilian economy, principally based upon the wealth of resources that it contains, but also husbanded through prudent policies at the governmental level. Brazil is unlikely to develop as a global superpower, but is likely to assert its interests through collective bodies such as MERCOSUR and by developing special relationships with Europe and the US.

Perhaps we ought to start putting the ‘B’ back into ‘BRIC’?

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