ASEAN-Brazil Relations: An interview with Secretary-General of Foreign Affairs Marcos Galvão

Updated: Feb 9, 2019

As part of our interview series, we are very glad to have been able to engage with the Secretary-General of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Ambassador Marcos Galvão.  Whilst we perhaps do not instinctively draw the link between ASEAN and Brazil, there are in fact, a trove of possibilities to develop relations between the organisation and the Latin American country. We thus directed a few questions on ASEAN-Brazil relations to Ambassador Galvão, to explore the possibilities of deepening this relationship.


1) ASEAN was created in 1967; fifty years later, it represents Brazil’s second biggest trade partner in Asia, with a total trade of approximately $16.5 bn. Could you explain in more details what this partnership is based on?


Brazilian relations with ASEAN have significantly deepened over the last few years. One of its main drivers surely was the expansion of trade. In 2017, trade between Brazil and the ten member countries of ASEAN surpassed USD 18.5 billion. Until 2001, the commercial exchanges were situated under USD 2.2 billion. As one of the world’s biggest powerhouses in the agricultural sector, as well as a producer of highly technological and internationally renowned products such as aircraft and defense equipment, Brazil sees great opportunities in ASEAN as a market for exports. Brazil also offers a large consumer market and serves as a gateway to MERCOSUR. There is also a strong interest in attracting investments to Brazil, in sectors such as oil and gas and infrastructure. But trade and investments are not the only drivers of our relations with ASEAN. We also share many common objectives in the international arena. The values upon which the Association was founded, such as non-interference and the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty, are also at the core of Brazilian foreign policy since its early beginnings. Back in 2012, Brazil was the first Latin American country to become part of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, one of the most significant components of the ASEAN framework. We foresee our relations with ASEAN as a multifaceted one, with stronger ties not only in trade and investments, but also in technical cooperation, education, tourism, innovation and especially in people-to-people contacts.


2) In your speech given at the ASEAN day on August 29th, 2017, you mentioned that ‘tolerance’ and ‘dialogue’ were key for a long-lasting partnership: how and in what areas are they both applied to Brazilian-ASEAN relationship?


Tolerance and dialogue are crucial to the success ASEAN has in promoting integration in Southeast Asia. Both are also fundamental characteristics of Brazilian foreign policy. We strongly believe that constructive dialogue and engagement are the basis for long-lasting solutions to international disputes. Self-determination, non-intervention, equality among states, the defense of peace and the peaceful solution to conflicts are principles that both Brazil and ASEAN share and are the perfect foundation for a mutually beneficial partnership.


3) The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aloysio Nunes, did a week-long trip to three Southeast Asian countries in September. Did he push forward a new political agenda? In other words, what is Brazil’s future foreign policy towards ASEAN?


The ministerial visit to Southeast Asian countries is a practical example of the priority given by the Brazilian government to its relations with Asia and ASEAN. Since the beginning of Minister Aloysio Nunes’ term as head of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he has put forth a resizing of Brazilian foreign policy for Asia – Southeast Asia included -, given the growing importance of the Continent. During his many meetings with his counterparts in his trip to the region, Minister Aloysio Nunes had the opportunity to further our bilateral relations with Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, but also with a view to strengthening Brazilian relations with ASEAN as a whole. It is also important to note that we and our MERCOSUR partners, as well as our ASEAN counterparts, are also working for a closer relation between the two blocs. In September 2017, the foreign ministers of MERCOSUR and ASEAN met at the margins of the UN General Assembly, so as to discuss possibilities of achieving this objective. As previously mentioned, we aim to enhance our contacts and not only increase and diversify trade and investments flows, but also expand our relationship to new, mutually beneficial areas. The creation of a framework for these initiatives, through the signature of technical cooperation agreements and of other instruments in areas such as education, tourism, visa facilitation as well as partnerships between “think tanks”, are some of the next steps that are being taken. During the next few years we will surely continue to build a stronger partnership with the ten ASEAN member countries and with the Association as a whole.

We would like to sincerely thank Ambassador Galvão for taking his time in responding to our email interview, and the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for helping us correspond with the Secretary-General.

©2019 LSESU ASEAN Society