UK-Brazil Relations - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  We welcome the Government's public commitment to a stronger bilateral relationship with Brazil. The growing political and economic importance of Brazil represents an opportunity for the UK, not a threat. We conclude that the Government is correct to identify the opportunities that Brazil's rise brings. We recommend that it continue to invest effort in revitalising the UK's relations with Brazil, notwithstanding any temptation to redeploy resources to other parts of the world, such as the Middle East and North Africa, where momentous events have been occurring. (Paragraph 14)

2.  We conclude that the efforts made by the Government to strengthen the UK's bilateral relationship with Brazil are welcome. We note that the forthcoming London Olympic and Paralympic Games will be invaluable in bringing the UK and Brazil closer together. We further conclude that while the Government's efforts are to be welcomed, they should be only the beginning. We recommend that the Government view its aspiration to enhance the UK-Brazil relationship as one requiring a long-term commitment to maintain the recent momentum. We will continue to monitor developments in the bilateral relationship throughout this Parliament. (Paragraph 27)

3.  A double taxation agreement between the UK and Brazil would not alter the commercial relationship between the two countries overnight, but it would be of practical assistance to UK companies trading in Brazil and be an important symbolic step in highlighting the importance that the UK Government is placing on the improved trade links. We recommend that the Government continue to lobby hard on this issue during upcoming Ministerial visits and at the annual UK-Brazil Joint Economic and Trade Committee meeting. (Paragraph 32)

4.  We conclude that the Government's proposed changes to student visa entry requirements may make it more difficult for Brazilian students to study in the UK, at the very time when the Brazilian government is proposing to increase the number of Brazilians studying aboard. We recommend that the FCO explore with the Home Office what steps can be taken to ensure that the new visa regime does not prevent suitably qualified bona fide Brazilian students from entering the UK to study. We further recommend that, in its response to this Report, the FCO inform us of the outcome of these discussions. (Paragraph 39)

5.  Given the importance that Brazil is placing on a successful outcome to the forthcoming Rio+20 Conference, we conclude that the conference represents a golden opportunity for the UK to show its commitment to a stronger bilateral relationship. We recommend that British Ministers, diplomats and officials should liaise closely with their Brazilian counterparts during the run-up to Rio+20, not only to maximise the chances of a successful outcome to the conference but, as an ancillary benefit, further to enhance UK-Brazil relations. We welcome the work of our colleagues on the Environmental Audit Committee in this area. (Paragraph 42)

6.  We conclude that the UK's explicit support for Brazil's permanent membership of the UN Security Council, as part of wider UN reform, is to be welcomed. We believe that Brazil has a potentially valuable role to play on the global stage, drawing upon the prestige and legitimacy conferred by its rising economy, its commitment to democracy, and its status and experience as a member of the developing "South". We recommend that the Government should continue to seek to act in close partnership with Brazil at the UN and in other international fora, and should encourage Brazil increasingly to take on the responsibilities associated with being a major global power. In this context we welcome the recent development of Brazilian foreign policy under President Dilma Rousseff, particularly with regards to the promotion of human rights in other countries. (Paragraph 64)

7.  The turning away of a Royal Naval vessel is a serious matter. We regret that the Brazilian government felt it necessary to take such action. While we accept the UK Government's position that they would prefer to discuss such matters in private and "away from the full glare of media and public scrutiny", we note with disappointment their reticence on this matter in correspondence with us. (Paragraph 70)

8.  While we are confident that the FCO has in place procedures to prevent a recurrence of this unfortunate development, we have yet to be told precisely why diplomatic clearance was refused for HMS Clyde, however we note that the scheduled arrival of the Clyde clashed with a meeting between the Brazil and Argentinean Presidents. We recommend that, in response to this Report the FCO tell us exactly why clearance was refused and what procedures are now in place, including a guarantee that in future such applications are overseen by a diplomat of an appropriate level of seniority in order to mitigate against such failings in future. (Paragraph 71)

9.  We conclude that the Government is right to point to the rich opportunities available for British companies willing to develop their trading links with Brazil. The Government target of doubling trade over the next five years is clearly an arbitrary one, as evidenced by the fact that the same target has been picked for increasing UK trade with five other major countries. It is, in effect, simply an indication of intent to use the influence of government to maximise trade opportunities for British companies over this period. We welcome the steps taken by both the previous and the present Government to encourage trade, including the setting up of JETCO and the Brazil-UK CEO Forum. We hope the JETCO will prove a useful forum by which best practice on reducing corruption may be shared with Brazilian businesses. (Paragraph 89)

10.  We recommend that the Government, via UKTI, continue to invest in providing advice to prospective exporters to Brazil, concerning how best to penetrate the Brazilian market, recognising in particular the need for companies to maintain a strong local presence, to retain adequate numbers of Portuguese-speaking staff, and to have the expertise on hand to navigate Brazilian bureaucracy and commercial law. (Paragraph 90)

11.  We conclude that the potential inherent in a free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur is immense. While we acknowledge the difficulties which exist in the negotiations, we urge the FCO to continue to work towards securing an agreement which will give EU firms a large advantage in a huge market. We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the FCO provide us with an update on negotiations. (Paragraph 95)

12.  We note that some larger UK firms, notably BG Group and Rolls-Royce, have had some successes in penetrating the growing Brazilian energy market. We congratulate them on this success and hope that this is a precursor to further trade by UK firms. The role of UKTI in promoting the Brazilian energy sector as an opportunity for UK investment will be crucial. We recommend that in its response to this Report the FCO inform us of UKTI's work in Brazil, with a particular emphasis on the energy sector. (Paragraph 103)

13.  We are pleased to note SOCA's long-term presence and continuing work in Brazil. We recommend that, given Brazil's increasing importance as a drug trafficking "hub", SOCA focus more work and resources in Brazil to prevent the problem escalating further. We conclude that Brazil's active leadership role in co-ordinating a regional response is a welcome development and is further evidence of Brazil's increasing capacity to play a leadership role on international issues. We recommend that the FCO should publicly welcome and support this leadership role. (Paragraph 109)

14.  We conclude that a gap remains between some of Brazil's international commitments to human rights and their implementation. We recommend that the Government take advantage of the planned series of ministerial visits to continue to raise the implementation of human rights with Brazilian ministers. During our visit we heard informally that a lack of philanthropic culture in Brazilian society means that human rights charities and organisations are dependent on funding from the Brazilian government. We therefore recommend that the FCO should consider making a contribution to the funding of Brazilian human rights NGOs and in its reply to us update us on its work in this regard. (Paragraph 116)

15.  We welcome Brazil's leadership role on international solutions to tackle climate change and the work of the FCO in promoting and supporting this position. We look forward to continuing close co-operation between the UK and Brazil on climate change, and hope that this forms the basis for a long-term relationship based on shared values. We recommend that the FCO continue to build and strengthen this relationship and push towards further agreements at the upcoming Rio+20 and Durban Conferences. (Paragraph 124)

16.  The FCO's announced commitment to a stronger bilateral relationship between the UK and Brazil is much overdue and very welcome. The rise of Brazil represents a great opportunity for the UK, both as a source of a strong commercial relationship and in providing an increasingly important partner in tackling global issues. The potential commercial benefits are well known and understood, but in areas such as energy security, the environment and tackling international crime, a stronger bilateral relationship with Brazil will also be of great benefit to the UK. (Paragraph 125)

17.  It will be clear from our Report that Brazil's increasing economic power and political influence is very much a "good news" story for the UK and the wider world. The overall assessment must be that Brazil is a democratic, well-governed, responsible state, unthreatening to its neighbours and with much to contribute to the international community. Nonetheless, it would have been remiss of us if we failed to deal with a number of issues which have the potential to undermine or deflect development of the desired stronger bilateral relationship. We hope that the UK Government will take such steps as are within its power to encourage Brazil further to improve its internal human rights record, to tackle problems of corruption, and to maintain a balanced and moderate stance on the Falkland Islands. (Paragraph 126)

18.  A closer bilateral relationship between the UK and Brazil can only be achieved over the medium term through sustained pressure and effort. The UK's present strategy towards Brazil is encouraging; we urge the Government not to allow momentum to be dissipated or its attention to be distracted by more dramatic developments elsewhere in the world. We will continue to monitor developments throughout the current Parliament. (Paragraph 127)

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Prepared 18 October 2011