friday, 11 october of 2019


U.S. Turns Down Brazil’s OECD Bid After Publicly Endorsing It

President Donald Trump on Thursday night asserted that he still supported Brazil’s entry into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, despite a State Department letter in August that showed the U.S. withholding support for the country’s current bid.

Trump addressed the matter on Twitter as he headed to a campaign rally in Minneapolis -- hours after the Aug. 28 letter sent to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria surfaced. In it, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that Washington only backed the membership candidacies of Argentina and Romania as part of the group’s enlargement effort. That came despite bids by Brazil and at least three other countries to join the intergovernmental economic group.

But Trump tweeted that a joint statement released with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro “in March makes absolutely clear that I support Brazil beginning the process for full OECD membership.” He called a report about the letter published earlier Thursday by Bloomberg News as “fake news.”

On Thursday evening, Pompeo also said that the U.S. stood behind or the Bolsonaro government’s aspiration of joining the group.

“We have welcomed Brazil’s ongoing efforts regarding economic reforms, best practices, and a regulatory framework in line with the standards of the OECD,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We are enthusiastic supporters of Brazil’s entry into this important institution and the United States will make a strong effort to support Brazil’s accession.”

But that enthusiasm apparently did not extend to Brazil’s bid over the summer. In the August letter, Pompeo wrote that “the U.S. continues to prefer enlargement at a measured pace that takes into account the need to press for governance and succession planning.”

At a White House press conference with Bolsonaro on March 19, Trump said supporting Brazil’s ascension effort was something “we’re going to be doing in honor of the president and in honor of Brazil.” He added that requests he had for the country would not necessarily be linked to unlocking U.S. support for the OECD bid.

A joint statement issued by the U.S. and Brazil the same day was more muted, saying the president backed “initiating the accession procedure.”

But in July, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross reiterated Washington’s support for Brazil during a visit to Sao Paulo. Membership would help attract investment to Latin America’s largest economy and raise its global profile.

The U.S. is supportive of measured OECD enlargement and an eventual invitation to Brazil, but is working for Argentina and Romania first given these countries’ economic reform efforts and commitment to free markets, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday, declining to be identified because the person is not authorized to discuss internal policy deliberations in public.

Pompeo’s letter was the official U.S. answer to a request made by Gurria to members to begin enlarging discussions with Brazil and other candidates next year. The letter was transmitted to Gurria by the U.S. chargé d’affaires in the body.

OECD Response
Earlier Thursday, the Paris-based group said in a statement that “we confirm that six prospective members have applied to join the OECD and are currently under consideration by the OECD’s governing Council as accession to the Organization is a decision for member countries that requires consensus.” The OECD statement added that it wouldn’t comment on ongoing discussions, citing confidentiality.

In a statement, the Brazilian government said there had been no change in the U.S.‘s support for its bid to join the OECD and added that there was no set time frame for its application.

“Despite the signals from the [Brazilian] government, it appears that Brazil has not become a strategic priority on the foreign policy map of the U.S.,” Hussein Kalout, a political scientist and research scholar at Harvard University, said earlier Thursday. “Concessions were made before it became clear whether this supposed support was to come now or in the future.”

Mixed Benefits
The U.S. endorsement earlier this year was one of first clear benefits to come from Bolsonaro’s close alignment with the Trump administration. During Bolsonaro’s trip to Washington, Brazil offered the U.S. access to the Alcantara rocket launch pad in the north-east of the country, visa-free travel for U.S. tourists and cooperation on the crisis in Venezuela. Trump, in return, delivered on his commitment to designate Brazil as a Major Non-NATO ally. Critics of the deal had questioned whether the U.S. support would materialize.

The U.S. support for Argentina and Romania comes at a time when both nations are going through political upheavals. Romania lost a third prime minister in as many years on Thursday as the government was ousted in a no-confidence vote by Parliament. In Argentina, President Mauricio Macri, a long-time friend of Trump, faces a challenging fight for re-election later this month after having lost a primary vote by 16 percentage points in August.

The OECD, founded in 1961, says on its website that it aims to “shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all.” Joining the group has been lately a badge of honor for countries looking to show the international community that their nations have economically prospered.

Brazil submitted its application for OECD membership in May 2017.

(Published by Bloomberg, October 11 2019)

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