Brazil’s thrice-elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is slated to meet with China’s leader Xi Jinping on April 14, in a pivotal visit between the nations with a potentially profound impact on western aerospace.
The results of the visit may lay the groundwork for a significant strategic shift for Embraer, at a time when the Brazilian industrial stalwart has been in search of a fresh foundation after a series of new product false starts, middling sales and the collapse of its joint venture with Boeing.
A potential realignment of Embraer toward the Chinese aviation market is causing heartburn in the U.S., as strategic planners watching the geopolitical chessboard consider what steps they could take to keep Brazil and its economic interests focused on North America. “We need them to stay in a western orbit,” said one senior U.S. Air Force advisor bluntly summing up the planners’ strategic concerns about Brazil’s shifting geopolitical posture.
The consternation over the possible Brazilian shift to China, its largest trading partner, underscores both the outsized role aerospace products continue to play in geopolitical relations and the tools at the disposal of a superpower seeking to maintain its position in the world order it has dominated since the end of World War II. The slate of options being discussed within U.S. policymaking circles ultimately reflects the tectonic shifts taking place in the macro relations between the U.S. and China, as both maneuver to wield their geopolitical influence.
Yet, in much the same way as Boeing’s current single-aisle exclusion in China has forced the U.S. plane maker to pivot toward India to compensate, Embraer is looking at market dynamics in the U.S. and the concurrently deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and China as an opportunity to shift its attention.
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