Understanding Brazil

Apr 19, 2012
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In this 45 minute interview, Dr. Hewitt offers critical insight into Brazil’s role in the 21st century and its ascendency to global power.  Dr. Hewitt addresses a wide spectrum of issues ranging from the history and shape of Brazilian-Canadian relations to what Canada can learn from Brazil’s technological advancement and expertise.  

This interview is a must-read for anyone interested in South America’s emerging giant.

Can you begin by offering us some perspective on the history of Brazilian/Canadian relations and how they’ve evolved over the last century?

The short answer is very up and down.  I would say that the reality is somewhat different from the popular perception which has been propagated in many quarters that Canada and Brazil are countries that have a lot in common, that we had been working together for the better part of a century -- that we established relations early on at the beginning of the 20th century by selling cod fish to Brazil which is still very popular at Christmas -- by establishing companies such as Brascan which built the hydro-electric and telephone systems for growing cities like Rio and Sao Paulo, through to our collaboration in Italy during the Second World War, to our joint peace-keeping efforts in the ‘50s and ‘60s in the Suez, right up to our joint peace keeping in Haiti.  

The reality is that we have had really little to do with each other as countries. It is only now that we are getting serious about working together.  I believe that this is because, for the first time, Canada truly understands how to approach Brazil from the perspective of developing a solid bi-lateral relationship.  I think a lot of our approaches and efforts during the ‘90s and into the first decade of this century were based on a somewhat misguided notion that Brazil was an “emerging” power, developing country, that could somehow benefit from all that we had to offer as Canada through our education system or through our highly-evolved bureaucracy, our democratic tradition.

In fact, this hasn’t interested Brazil very much.  Now the government’s tone has shifted to focus on how Canada collaborates with Brazil, specifically in areas such as science and technology, student and researcher mobility, to create value together and specifically in the form of inventions, knowledge, and technologies that can be developed, marketed within our countries, and to third parties in ways that Canada and Brazil can in fact go after world markets.  Only now has the relationship started to take off in my view.

 

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Photo courtesy of flickr user gaby_bra

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