Brazil to 'actively' boost farm exports: next foreign minister

Brasília (AFP) –


Brazil is to throw its diplomatic muscle behind a push to "actively and systematically" increase exports from its huge farm sector, the country's next foreign minister said Friday.

"Agriculture's strength will be part of the project to increase Brazil's power. At the same time, projecting the image of a country that is confident, big and strong will further serve agriculture's interests," Ernesto Araujo said in a series of tweets.

Araujo promised to inject a good dose of ideology into trade and Brazil's dealings with other countries, while railing against the foreign policies of leftist leaders who ruled the country between 2003 and 2010.

He also said a new agribusiness department would be created in his ministry.

"New foreign policy: Brazil won't stop exporting chicken and soya, beef and sugar, but will also move to export hope and freedom," he said.

"The fact we are an agricultural power doesn't stop us having ideas and fighting for them."

Araujo was a mid-ranking public worker in Brazil's foreign ministry when far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro tapped him to become the country's top diplomat. The new government takes office on January 1.

The 51-year-old, who never held the post of ambassador, embodies Bolsonaro's stance of encouraging business and foreign investment while downplaying the need to fight climate change or protect the environment.

- Inexperience -

The foreign policy inexperience of Bolsonaro and his team has been evident in rash rhetoric against China -- Brazil's biggest trading partner -- and the president-elect's promise -- hastily backpedalled -- to move Brazil's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly said that China "is buying Brazil."

But his country is doing very well in terms of increased soya exports to China after Beijing imposed a 25 percent tariff on US soybeans in retaliation for tariffs on Chinese goods ordered by US President Donald Trump.

And while Bolsonaro said last month he intended to follow Trump's lead by moving his embassy to Jerusalem, the sudden realization that such a controversial step could put vital agriculture exports to Europe and Middle East markets at risk forced him to say "it hasn't been decided yet."

Brazil is a significant trading power, notably exporting soybeans, iron ore, sugar, oil and chicken, with its main markets being China, the United States and the European Union.

Exports last year topped $200 billion and imports $138 billion, according to government figures.

Some Brazilian media reported that Araujo was trying to stake out a bigger area of responsibility for his foreign ministry by including agricultural trade.

He faces an economy ministry that has been expanded to swallow portfolios for industry, investment and labor and which looks poised to have a say over Brazil's trade policies.