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Brazil wants to move embassy to Jerusalem, push reform at WTO

January 4, 2019 at 3:26 am

The Israeli and Brazilian flag are seen outside the Brazilian Embassy, in Tel Aviv on 28 October 2018 [Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images]

The national security adviser to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that the leader wants to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but that logistical considerations were standing in the way, Reuters reports.

Retired Army General Augusto Heleno, Bolsonaro’s top adviser on security, did not elaborate. But the country’s powerful agriculture sector is opposed to moving the embassy from Tel Aviv and angering Arab nations that buy billions of dollars worth of Brazilian halal or “permissible” meat each year.

Separately, Bolsonaro met Thursday with the head of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, who said the new Brazilian government’s sharp rebukes of globalism were shared by many other countries and that the trade body was making changes.

Azevedo met with Bolsonaro the day after Brazil’s new Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo sharply rebuked globalism, saying that under his watch the country would fight for change at multilateral institutions like the WTO.

Araujo’s words were not a threat, Azevedo said.

“To the contrary, I think it was very propitious and compatible with what is happening,” he said after meeting Bolsonaro. “The World Trade Organization itself is beginning the process of reforms.”

The far-right Bolsonaro has dramatically changed Brazil’s diplomatic alliances, rejecting the emphasis on South-South relations that the leftist Workers Party pushed when it held the presidency from 2003 to 2016.

Read: Brazil should move its embassy in return for getting drones from Israel

Bolsonaro, an avid fan of US President Donald Trump, has deepened ties with the United States and Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Brazil for Bolsonaro’s Jan. 1 inauguration, and after the pair met Netanyahu said that Bolsonaro told him that moving the embassy was a matter of “when not if.”

Security adviser Heleno said on Thursday “there is a clear desire that this happens, but there has been no decision on a date.”

Heleno said he did not think there would be problems with Arab nations who have threatened to boycott Brazilian exports if it moves the embassy to Jerusalem, arguing that Brazilian diplomats would work with Middle Eastern trading partners to ease concerns.

Bolsonaro and some state governors in Brazil are looking to purchase Brazilian drones and lean on the United States and Israel for other technology and know-how as the government had made dismantling the South American nations powerful and heavily armed drug cartels a top priority.

Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, said after a first full meeting of the cabinet that the new administration was committed to an ambitious pension overhaul, adding that a privatization program was still under evaluation.

By early next week each minister should announce their top priority, Lorenzoni said.

Bolsonaro’s economic team has promised to liberalize Brazil’s hidebound economy, rid the country of “socialism,” and enact conservative social measures in areas like education.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro unveiled plans to step up privatizations, toughen prison sentencing guidelines and hand control over indigenous land claims to the powerful Agriculture Ministry. Brazilian markets soared on promises to shrink government.

Bolsonaro’s administration is made up of free market economists, statist former military generals, and religious ideologues, and it remains to be seen just how committed he is to liberalize the economy.