The environment as a strategic priority in the European Union–Brazil partnership: is the EU behaving as a normative power or soft imperialist?
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In 2007, Brazil entered the European Union’s (EU) list of strategic partners; a token of recognition of the place Brazil occupies in current global affairs. Although promoting bilateral environmental convergence is a stated priority, cooperation between the EU and Brazil in this policy field is largely under-researched, raising interesting questions as to whether the current state of play could support EU claims for the normative orientation of its external environmental policy. Through an analysis of partnership activities in the fields of deforestation and biofuels, we suggest that while normative intentions may be regarded as a motivating force, critically viewing EU foreign environmental policy through a ‘soft imperialism’ lens could offer a more holistic understanding of the current state of bilateral cooperation. While the normative power thesis can be substantiated with regard to deforestation, we argue that by erecting barriers to shield its domestic biofuels production, the EU is placing trade competitiveness and economic growth above its normative aspirations. Subsequently, the partial adoption of sustainable development as an EU norm leads to policy incoherence and contradictory actions.
KeywordsClimate change Deforestation Biofuels Mercosur Latin America Multilateralism
African, Caribbean and Pacific
Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization
Agriculture, forestry and land use
Brazil, South Africa, India and China
Brazilian Development Bank
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa
Common Agricultural Policy
Convention on Biological Diversity
Direct land use change
European Investment Bank
Free trade agreement
Framework Programme (for Research and Technological Development)
Group of 20
India, Brazil and South Africa
Indirect land use change
Joint action plan
Land use change
Mercosur–Europe Business Forum
Mercado Común del Sur
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation
Sustainable liquid biofuels from biomass biorefining
Total primary energy supply
UN Conference on Environment and Development (1992)
World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002)
World Trade Organization
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under the Grant Agreement No. 251132. We also thank Jouni Paavola, Julia Leventon, Vivek Mathur, James Porter and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.
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