U.S. still on top, says Cardoso

Despite predictions that the global financial crisis could topple the economic hegemony of the United States, the country will remain the world’s preeminent power at least for the near future, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said Monday.

Before an audience of about 150, Cardoso — the Brazilian president from 1995 to 2002 and a visiting fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization — argued that the damage resulting from the financial crisis has been exacerbated by the interconnected nature of the global economy. As a result, countries such as China, which some experts have forecast will emerge from the crisis relatively unscathed, will actually suffer as much as other nations, he said.

Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardozo speaks at Luce Hall on Monday.
Elizabeth Breit
Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardozo speaks at Luce Hall on Monday.

Rather than entering into a decline as the economic crisis worsens, the United States will maintain its dominance, Cardoso said. He expressed hope that President Barack Obama would be able to demonstrate strong global leadership, renegotiate a global order and push for a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle in the United States.

“China is not yet [powerful enough], Europe is too shy, and the emerging powers are still emerging,” he said. “The U.S. will still be the dominant power. There will not be any alternative for a long time.”

Cardoso recommended that the United States enact policies to jump-start consumption, raise interest rates and enact what he termed “subtle global regulation,” though he added that coming to an agreement about the specifics of regulation will be difficult.

The current trend toward globalization began in the 1970s during a technological revolution in the transportation and communication sectors, he said. What made the United States and Japan successful, he said, was their capacity to make full use of technology as they expanded their global financial reach.

“Globalization has allowed an enormous section of the population to become less poor in China and to some extent in India,” Cardoso said. “The power shift from west to east indicates that we are at a turning point where about half of the [global] GDP comes from emerging countries.”

Sheide Chammas ’11, who is from Brazil and is contemplating a career in Brazilian politics, said he was disappointed that Cardoso made sweeping generalizations instead of offering suggestions for dealing with the financial crisis.

“We’ve had enough of uncertainties and I didn’t learn anything I did not already know,” Chammas said. “I wish he had talked more about leadership in developing countries, especially in Brazil.”

Jerry Feng ’11 said he had trouble following Cardoso’s logic throughout the speech, adding that he had expected more personal anecdotes.

But Robert Li ’10 said he enjoyed Cardoso’s “sense of humor.”

Cardoso, who is currently president of the Instituto Fernando Henrique Cardoso in São Paulo, has been honorary president of the Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB) since 2003.

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