For many countries, the global health crisis was a cue to diplomatic introspection and disengagement from the international scene. That does not hold true when it comes to the relationship between Brazil and China. Our countries took on the challenges presented by this appalling crisis to enhance and deepen bilateral cooperation, which is now stronger and more diversified than ever before.
Throughout this crisis, our bilateral trade continued to grow. In spite of the sharp drop in business travel and the disruption in many services sectors, including international transportation, Brazil and China were able to reach a new record in two-way trade, which topped $102 billion in 2020. Preliminary data for the first quarter of 2021 indicate that the positive trend continues.
Most of the agricultural products China now imports (such as soybeans, meat and sugar) come from Brazil’s world-renowned agribusiness sector. Brazil has proven time and again that it is capable of supplying high-quality food at competitive prices, in the large quantities required by the Chinese market, thus helping China to achieve its food security goals.
Brazil is also present in other sectors, as a major source of China’s iron ore, oil, cotton and pulp imports. Brazil continues to be China’s third most important trading partner in the Western world, after the U.S. and Germany.
China has been Brazil’s largest trading partner since 2009. It has been a steady supplier of a large range of products to Brazil. Chinese vaccines, as well as active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) produced in China, account for the bulk of Brazil’s immunization program against COVID-19 until now.
Brazil has played a major role as a testing ground for Chinese vaccines, and there are ongoing cooperation initiatives aimed at developing more vaccines. We trust that the experience acquired in the fight against this pandemic will lead to long-term cooperation on health issues.
In some areas, the obstacles to travel have caused a reduction in bilateral exchanges. Investment projects, cultural initiatives, tourism, and student interchanges have suffered the inevitable impact of the pandemic. These setbacks are, however, temporary. Once connectivity is restored, the Brazil-China relationship will pick up again in full.
The two countries are keen, among other things, to fully explore the synergies between China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Brazil’s Investment Partnerships Program, on the basis of the consensus reached by the leaders of both countries.
We have received clear instructions from our leaders to continue along this path. President Xi Jinping and President Jair Bolsonaro met twice in 2019, respectively in China and Brazil.
Since the beginning of 2020, they have exchanged letters and have held virtual meetings, and reached many agreements on the way forward. We also have the institutional mechanisms to promote bilateral dialogue and to jointly develop, implement, and follow up joint cooperation plans. We will use them to deepen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership established in 2012.
At the top of our bilateral institutional arrangements lies the Sino-Brazilian High-Level Coordination and Cooperation Committee (COSBAN), which is jointly chaired by Vice-President Hamilton Mourão and Vice-President Wang Qishan. COSBAN presides over an array of thematic subcommissions and working groups tasked with bringing together government agencies, institutions, and experts in areas such as infrastructure, energy, financial cooperation, science and technology, tourism, and education.
Both countries are currently reviewing the structure of COSBAN with a view to reflecting changes in priorities and streamlining working practices. The next meeting of COSBAN will make a decision on updating the medium and long-term strategy documents that guide bilateral cooperation. COSBAN’s next meeting is expected to be held in the coming months.
We will also continue to make full use of other bilateral and multilateral arrangements to pursue our objectives. BRICS, for instance, remains a hallmark of our relationship. BRICS has allowed Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa to engage more directly, without intermediaries, outside frameworks that reflect different historical circumstances.
In recent years, BRICS established some innovative tools, such as the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, which are relevant alternatives to traditional international financial institutions. It has also provided opportunities for mutual exchanges and joint initiatives by academics, scientists, artists, and students.
Brazil and China have a long history of collaboration in multilateral organizations. Multilateralism is going through a challenging period, in which some of its fundamental assumptions are called into question. There is indeed a need for reform, among other reasons because rules and institutions should reflect changes in the international system.
This will not be simple nor quick, but multilateralism remains indispensable. Too many crucial problems, such as the environment, cannot be properly addressed solely within the confines of national jurisdictions.
We believe that BASIC, an environment-dedicated mechanism composed of Brazil, China, India and South Africa that held its most recent meeting in April, will continue to play a key role in international discussions on climate issues in the coming years, not least about climate finance.
Brazil also looks forward to working with China and other partners in the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which will take place in Kunming later this year. We will continue to discuss bilaterally the full range of issues that are at the forefront of the international agenda.
Brazil and China have established one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. Our partnership will continue to flourish because it provides a valuable contribution to both countries’ development. We will continue to develop our solid economic ties; It’s also believed that the time has come to place more emphasis on people-to-people contacts for the mutual benefit, prosperity, and well-being of our peoples.