Thursday, May 11, 2017

Japan-Brazil Cooperation: Flawed By Design?

Dawisson Belém Lopes,

Michel Temer & Shinzō Abe image from article
An important piece of Tokyo’s global strategy in public diplomacy was unveiled with the launching of Japan House – a center aimed to brand and foster knowledge about Japanese past and contemporary features around the world. The first branch was inaugurated in São Paulo, Brazil, on May 6; two other cultural venues of the kind are due to open within short time in London and Los Angeles. The symbolic gesture of picking São Paulo for the grand opening of Japan House hints at the value attributed by Japan to its strategic global partnership with Brasília.
Japan currently serves as a home to some 300,000 Brazilian expatriates and, even more impressively, Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of the archipelago. The state of São Paulo alone accounts for approximately one million Nippon-Brazilian citizens, outnumbering other foreign ethnic groups to have settled in the country – Portuguese, Italians, Bolivians, Koreans, and Poles, for example. There are plenty of successful Brazilians with Japanese heritage in nearly every professional field one evokes – from TV hostess Sabrina Sato and political pundit Luiz Gushiken to world-class artist Tomie Ohtake and sportsman Hugo Hoyama. While Japanese cars and high-tech gadgets are truly appreciated in Portuguese-speaking South America, Brazilian footballers and singers are ever more admired by East Asians.
Despite the surprising and encouraging communion Japan and Brazil may exhibit at the societal level, there’s a mismatch when it comes to trade and diplomacy. If Tokyo and Brasília used to be close and willing to team up, by the 1960s and 1970s, and again in the first decade of the 21st century, especially in the realms of agribusiness and technical cooperation, that is arguably no longer the case. Governmental officials are partly the ones to blame. But there are also some very deep structural drivers, which help explain such apparent failure to cooperate. ...
In a nutshell, unless Tokyo and Brasília decide to go for a thorough re-evaluation of the terms upon which their dysfunctional bilateral cooperation was structured over time, and think of innovative ways to carry it through in the future, Japan House will be of little help in making the ties that unite the two countries even bolder. The time has come to leave too optimistic speeches behind and move ahead.

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