President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to slap metals tariffs on Brazil is a blow to President Jair Bolsonaro’s aim of forging closer ties with Washington and could push Latin America’s No. 1 economy closer to Trump’s top trade foe – China, Reuters writes.
Earlier on Monday, Trump said he will impose tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina, catching the two South American countries off guard and prompting them to seek explanations.
Bolsonaro strode to victory last year as the “Trump of the Tropics”, threatening to slash China’s growing footprint in his country’s economy.
Once in office, he doubled down on Trump but also held back on bashing Beijing in favor of a more pragmatic approach with China, Brazil’s top trade partner.
Increasingly, it seems, only one of those strategies worked. Trump’s latest tariff announcement suggests Bolsonaro’s U.S. overtures have fallen on deaf ears.
By contrast, Bolsonaro’s once-acrimonious relationship with Beijing has softened and is yielding tangible results, with China buying ever more Brazilian meat and even coming to the rescue of its troubled deep-water oil auction last month.
Analysts said Trump’s repeated snubs of Bolsonaro could push Brazil back toward the more long-term, consistent and drama-free embrace of China.
“If you’re concerned about China’s growing economic influence in Latin America, imposing tariffs is at best counterproductive,” said Monica de Bolle, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
Thomaz Favaro, regional director at consultancy Control Risks, said Bolsonaro’s efforts to shimmy closer to Trump have not gained traction in Washington, while Beijing has been far more open to working strategically with Brazil, Reuters adds.
“It’s very clear that China has tried to position itself as a steady ally of the Brazilian government, regardless of political difference, and I think that message has been very well received in Brasilia,” he said.