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    A woman sells t-shirts and flags with the image of presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro in front of the headquarters of the national congress in Brasilia

    Scholar Calls Bolsonaro's Plan to Transfer Embassy to Jerusalem 'Reckless'

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    Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has said that he would fulfil his campaign promise to move the Embassy of Brazil from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognizing the Holy City as Israel’s capital.

    Sputnik discussed the situation with political expert Arnaldo Cardoso from Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo. 

    In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, his first with foreign media since the elections, Bolsonaro confirmed his intention to relocate the embassy.     

    The president-elect also claimed that he would close the Palestinian Embassy in Brazil. He later announced it on his official Twitter account.

    In December 2017, Donald Trump announced that the US Embassy would move to Jerusalem, which happened on 15 May, 2018. Guatemala and Paraguay followed the US' lead, but soon after Paraguay dropped the idea.

    READ MORE: Bolton Praises Bolsonaro, Calls Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua 'Troika of Tyranny'

    The possible relocation of the Brazilian Embassy has been criticized, as many think the measure would entail a drastic change in Brazil's foreign policy. It could trigger political conflicts with Arab countries that are important trade and business partners for Brazil.

    Brazil's new stance contradicts the interests of the Arab League.

    According to Arnaldo Cardoso of Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Bolsonaro's position is "reckless", as the short-sighted policy could have economic and political consequences.

    "This instance is very important, because it shows the significance of foreign policy. I think that the statement of the new president was quite short-sighted, since he didn't take into account that when we say foreign policy, we mean state policy, which has been formed for a period of time in accordance with different interests of society. It's important. It is an important instrument of state policy. The main motivation of state policy is national interest, which, in the case of democracy, is formed based on the interests of the whole society," Cardoso added.

    How will the relocation of the embassy influence Brazil's economy?

    According to data published by the Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services of Brazil, as of October 2018, Brazil retains a negative trade balance with Israel. The trade deficit with Israel is 647.4 million dollars for Brazil.

    READ MORE: Bolsonaro's Win Shows Sharp Turn to Right-Wing After Twelve Years — Prof

    Concerning trade relations with Arab League countries, Brazil's surplus is 3.1 billion dollars. If we don't include China, these figures comprise 13% of the foreign trade balance of Brazil.

    From January to October 2018, Arab League countries bought 9.3 billion dollars' worth of Brazilian products, importing mainly halal beef and chicken, soya, corn and iron ore.

    Egypt has already responded to Bolsonaro's statement. Last week, the government of the country cancelled the visit of a Brazilian delegation, which consisted of entrepreneurs, diplomats and the head of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, Aloysio Nunes, who had planned to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

    Egypt is Brazil's largest trade partner among Arab League countries, receiving 20% of Brazil's exports to the Arab countries.

    Although officially the visit was cancelled due to changes to the schedule, experts considered this measure to be a response to Bolsonaro's statement.  

    A Democrats party federal deputy from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul,  Tereza Cristina, chosen by the new president to serve as minister of agriculture, spoke about the concerns expressed by meat producers and promised to discuss the issue with the new president. At the moment, Brazil is the leading country in exporting halal meat.

    The relocation of the embassy doesn't bring any benefit

    "Speaking about our trade interests in the region, they are without a doubt very significant. One political decision, such as relocation of the embassy, may negatively affect trade and economic relations between Brazil and the Arab countries," said Arnaldo Cardoso.

    READ MORE: Bolsonaro Wanted to Send Message of Protest to Political Establishment — Prof

    Cardoso doubted that the measures proposed by Bolsonaro would bring any benefit since Brazil and Israel have had a trade agreement since 2010. It means that the relocation of the embassy is being done for political reasons.

    "If we consider the volume of our export to Israel, taking into account the lower taxes and customs duties, it will still be smaller than our export to the Arab countries."

    In addition, the expert stated that trade with Israel would not compensate for the export relations with 21 countries.

    One of the motives for the rapprochement between Brazil and Israel is the orientation towards the policy undertaken by President Donald Trump in the US, a traditional ally of Tel Aviv.

    However, according to the expert, improving relations with the US isn't going to offer any benefits to the country due to the aluminium and steel tariffs recently introduced by the US.

    "This year important sectors of production and export in Brazil won't perform well, because of the restrictions, imposed by the US government. When we take a look at steel and aluminium production, we see that import of these goods in the US has drastically fallen," the analyst added.

    Despite talks with the American government, Brazil hasn't managed to achieve an easing of the duties on steel and aluminium imposed by the US last May.

    Prudence and temerity in diplomacy

    "These relations have been constructed for quite a while. The first contract for a supply of chicken from Brazil to the Middle East was signed back in 1979. Since then we've been consistently trying to build a reputation of trustworthy partner. We've been developing techniques, suitable to fulfil the demands of these countries, including halal ways of slaughtering poultry. We've been building it for decades," Cardoso explained.

    READ MORE: US Has 'Biggest Expectations' About Brazil's President-Elect Bolsonaro — Prof

    The political expert pointed out that the niche that Brazil has on the Arab market is a result of years of effort by diplomats and businessmen that gave the country leadership in spheres such as the export of halal meat and allowed them to beat traditional suppliers, such as France.

    He's sure that prudence should be the core principle of diplomacy.

    "I'll say it again, it is very reckless. Here, I'd like to quote the founding father of political realism Hans Morgenthau, who said that prudence is the core principle of politics. We should find the interests of the country, but always keep in mind prudence as the essential virtue of the foreign policy. I think that Bolsonaro's statement had a motive of prudence."

    "Words are very important in diplomacy. In diplomacy, it is also important to watch your mouth. It seems that president-elect doesn't know that," the scholar concluded.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Arnaldo Cardoso and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    Related:

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    Bolsonaro Says Brazil Will Move Embassy to Jerusalem
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