Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Business, Government and Foreign Policy: Brazilian Construction Firms Abroad *

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Business, Government and Foreign Policy: Brazilian Construction Firms Abroad *

Article excerpt

Globalization has been altering the relational logic of the main international actors. Although the scale of its impact on the State's role in the international system remains controversial, there is some degree of consensus in the literature that the major transformations occurring in recent decades in communications, technologies and transportation have altered the international power structure. States have been forced to interact more closely with non-state actors, sharing spaces in national and international decision-making arenas and cooperating to achieve mutual advances.

In defining foreign policy, non-state actors increasingly participate in the state's decisions. Moravcsik (2008) asserts: "The liberal state constitutes the critical 'transmission belt' by which the preferences and social power of individuals and groups are translated into foreign policy" (MORAVCSIK, 2008, p. 237). Foreign policy is a result of the interactive dynamic between state agents and interest groups, the constant interaction between domestic and international factors, and the balance between the Executive and Legislative Powers (MILNER, 1997).

This article analyses the interactive dynamic between the national business community and the Brazilian state, focusing in particular on the expansion of the international activities of the country's biggest construction firms. It seeks to identify the ways in which the interests of companies from this sector are mobilized and organized, while also highlighting the institutional channels created by the national state to capture these demands. Two different analytic approaches are explored. The first tends to concentrate on how the national business sector operates within the political system - the business/state relationship (CARDOSO, 1975; DINIZ and BOSCHI, 2007; LEOPOLDI, 2000; MANCUSO and GOZETO, 2011; OLIVEIRA, 2015; SCHMITTER, 1974). The second aims to comprehend how state institutions capture these demands in the foreign policy area - the state/business relationship (FIGUEIRA, 2009; LIMA and SANTOS, 2001; OLIVEIRA and ONUKI, 2007; PINHEIRO, 2003; VEIGA, 2006). The article analyses both the role performed by the Brazilian government in stimulating the internationalization of civil construction firms, and the ways in which companies from the sector have utilized the country's diplomatic structure to lever new business opportunities abroad. Finally it looks to identify the causal relations between the phenomena by means of what King, Keohane and Verba (1994) call as descriptive inferences.

The analysis centres on large companies from the civil construction sector that: 01. were pioneers in projecting their business activities internationally; 02. display a strong presence in the foreign market; 03. possess historical trajectories that traverse different governments and political regimes; 04. have shown a high degree of penetration within state structures over the years.

The study adopts a qualitative approach, beginning its empirical observation in the 1930s, the moment when the system representing corporate interests linked to the Brazilian state first emerged. A variety of data collection techniques were used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to obtain information on situations where the interviewee was personally involved in the process of interest. Since the reconstruction of the narrative from facts obtained across broad time spans can generate vacuums, triangulation techniques were used to resolve potential divergences between spoken discourse, documents and direct observation. In complementary fashion, information was drawn from annual management reports (2002-2014), media reports and published testimonies, as well as searches in newspapers, books and specialized periodicals, and government information published on the sites of the public agencies covered by the research: the Foreign Ministry (Ministerio das Relaçoes Exteriores, MRE), the Brazilian Development Bank (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Económico e Social, BNDES), the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade (Ministerio do Desenvolvimento, Industria e Comercio Exterior, MDIC), and the Finance Ministry (Ministerio da Fazenda, MF). …

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