Dr. Oliveira presents his research at the China Agricultural University

How Soybeans (Dis)Connect the US, China and Brazil

Dr. Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira

Visiting Assistant Professor, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University

Assistant Professor, Department of Global and International Studies, UC Irvine

May 16, 2019

12:30p.m. – 13:30p.m.

China Agricultural University, East Campus, Democracy Building 240

Soybeans were first domesticated in China thousands of years ago, and they became a truly global commodity through US geopolitical hegemony during the 20th century. But now Brazil surpassed the US to become the largest exporter of this agricultural commodity, which has in China its largest market. So when the US initiated a trade war in 2018, and China responded by raising counter-tariffs on soybeans imported from the US, Brazilian soy exports to China gained even greater geopolitical importance. These connections between China, Brazil, and the US through soy trade are usually treated as a “natural” result of the limited farmland in China in relation to its large population, the abundance of natural resources in Brazil, and the technological advancement of US agribusiness. In this paper, I adopt a political ecology framework to challenge this mainstream view. I reveal the political drivers and ecological contradictions of the global agroindustrial restructuring that connects and disconnects China, Brazil, and the United States through soybeans – and argue that instead of seeing these problems as simple geopolitical struggle between countries, and calling for smoother international soy trade among them, we should shift debate to the underlying class politics and ecological contradictions of transnational soybean agribusiness, which foreclose agroecological alternatives that can strengthen food sovereignty in Brazil, the US, and China alike.

Contact: Fu Chuchu, WeChat ID: wxid_0isvkzb64em522

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/U8vz263TJf4y14vBYkuoEA

Dr. Oliveira presents his research at the University of York

Dr. Oliveira was invited to participate in the International and Interdisciplinary Workshop on “Promoting Effective Sustainability Governance in Soy Global Supply Chains”. The event was organized by the IKnowFood and N8 Agrifood research networks, and hosted by the University of York, UK. The workshop took place on March 25, 2019, and “brought together some of the world’s leading scholars, alongside soy food systems stakeholders, to share state-of-the-art (predominantly social) scientific research, civil society and industry perspectives.”

Dr. Oliveira presented his research on “Brazil, China, US, and the Underlying Class Politics of Global Soybeans.”

For further information on the workshop and this Soy Governance Research Initiative, contact: Dr. Tony Heron, tony.heron@york.ac.uk

 

Dr. Oliveira interviewed by the South China Morning Post

Why the China-US trade war truce could be a raw deal for Brazil’s soybean farmers

Keegan Elmer, South China Morning Post, Dec. 4, 2018

(…)

US President Donald Drumpf and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed on the weekend to halt any further increases in tariffs for 90 days to try to hammer out trade differences between the two countries. China also promised to buy more US agricultural products, sending down prices for soybeans from Brazil and other sources around the world.

“Instead of being a boon for the Brazilian farmers, [the deal] would be a total bane,” said Gustavo Oliveira, assistant professor of global studies at the University of California, Irvine.

(…)

A deal between Beijing and Washington could turn that bumper harvest into a soybean glut.

Oliveira said Brazilian farmers also faced higher input costs this year, like transport, and planted their crops in expectation of high prices, he added.  In the meantime, the depletion of Brazilian soybean supplies meant that China would likely soon have to return to buying the US crop, he said.

(…)

Oliveira said continued uncertainty in the China-US relationship and the trade war would cause headaches for farmers around the world. “Farmers are used to dealing with the uncertainty of the weather, and some uncertainty in international markets is expected, but 25 per cent up or down on the price of one of the world’s two largest producers is really dramatic uncertainty. And the possibility that this could be removed, exactly as Brazilian crops go on the market, that’s what’s frustrating for everyone,” he said.

For the full report, see: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/2176373/why-china-us-trade-war-truce-could-be-raw-deal-brazils-soybean

Dr. Oliveira interviewed by Brasil de Fato

Entenda como a guerra comercial entre EUA e China afeta os agricultores brasileiros

Júlia Dolce, Brasil de Fato, July 31, 2018

Excerpts translated by Gustavo Oliveira.

(…)

The geographer and assistant professor of Global and International Studies at the University of California, Irvine, Gustavo Oliveira, however, points out that all these perspectives do not take into account benefits or losses for small farmers and the Brazilian working class.

“The big problem in the way this subject is being talked about in the media is to treat countries as if they were a single bloc with unique interests. In the short term, the fact that there are two major soy exporters: Brazil and the US, and one biggest buyer, China, which is failing to buy from the US, has raised the price of domestic soybeans [in Brazil], but this is not necessarily good for people who are not in the soy sector,” he says.

Oliveira researches political ecology, agribusiness and trade relations between Brazil and China, and will hold a visiting professor position at Beijing University later this year. In an interview with Brazil de Fato, he stressed that the potential trade crisis should lead to an in-depth analysis of the form of production and foreign relations that the country has been maintaining.

“In fact, if this moment of crisis led Brazil to start dismantling this dependence on soy and agribusiness, then this could be a positive thing, it could lead to new relations, independent not only of the US, but of the form of production that links us to global capitalism, whether from the USA or from elsewhere,” he says.

(…)

For the full interview in Portuguese, see: https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2018/07/31/entenda-como-a-guerra-comercial-entre-eua-e-china-afeta-os-agricultores-brasileiros

Dr. Oliveira interviewed by BBC Brazil on the impacts of the US-China trade war on Brazil

Como a guerra comercial entre EUA e China pode afetar o Brasil

(How the trade war between the US and China may affect Brazil)

Excerpts translated by Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira

(…)

Gustavo Oliveira (…) believes that the two countries should reach agreement on these tariff issues in months. “What is happening is a realignment, in which you have less US exports to China and more exports from Brazil and other countries to China.”

(…)

Gustavo Oliveira explains that China can not count on Brazilian soybeans to replace the American, since Brazil directs much of the national production (43 million tons) to feed the domestic market. Brazilian exports suffer from political instability, as demonstrated by the recent national truck drivers strike. In addition, China imports almost two-thirds of the world’s soy production. “Brazil and the US each export more than a third, and all other countries added account for less than a third. Taking the US or Brazil out of the equation basically means having to get all the soy from the rest of the world and all the Brazil to serve the Chinese market. All importers other than China would have to import exclusively from the US. This is an unrealistic situation due to various logistical, market and contract issues,” says the researcher.

(…)

For Oliveira (…) to think about the impact of the commercial war with an analysis restricted to agribusiness is to assume that everything that favors the sector is good for the country. “It’s not that simple,” he says. “This is a conversation that has taken place within a framework that treats Brazilian agribusiness, steelmaking and mining as the equivalent of Brazil’s interest.” Yet a major crisis for Brazilian agribusiness can be a good thing for thousands of landless families, for millions of small farmers, and for many other sectors of Brazilian society that have a different view of agribusiness development,” Oliveira said in Beijing.

The friction between China and the US shows how vulnerable Brazil is, being a major exporter of agricultural products and minerals. “It is very exposed to the advances and setbacks of negotiations between Beijing and Washington, in which Brazilian companies and state do not even have any weight. Brazil is hostage to a neocolonial model.”

For the full length report in Portuguese, see: https://noticias.r7.com/economia/como-a-guerra-comercial-entre-eua-e-china-pode-afetar-o-brasil-07072018

SCMP: Why China can’t count on Brazil to fill the soybean gap in its trade battle with the US

Dr. Oliveira writes for the South China Morning Post.

Differences in the timing of planting and harvest in the northern and southern hemisphere allow China to avoid US soy for now, but domestic demand in Brazil and higher transportation costs will limit its capacity to backup China’s soy demand by December, when Chinese buyers will be forced to purchase US soy despite tariffs.

For the full length column, see: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2152109/why-china-cant-count-brazil-fill-soybean-gap-its-trade