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Global Brazil and U.S.-Brazil Relationsby Samuel W. Bodman
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July 12, 2011—Over the course of a generation, Brazil has emerged as both a driver of growth in South America and as an active force in world politics. A new Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)-sponsored Independent Task Force report asserts “that it is in the interest of the United States to understand Brazil as a complex international actor whose influence on the defining global issues of the day is only likely to increase.”
Brazil currently ranks as the world’s fifth-largest landmass and fifth-largest population, and it expects to soon be ranked the fifth-largest economy. The report, Global Brazil and U.S.-Brazil Relations, recommends that “U.S. policymakers recognize Brazil’s standing as a global actor, treat its emergence as an opportunity for the United States, and work with Brazil to develop complementary policies.”
The Task Force is chaired by former secretary of energy Samuel W. Bodman and former president of the World Bank James D. Wolfensohn and is directed by CFR Senior Fellow and Director for Latin America Studies and Director of the Global Brazil Initiative Julia E. Sweig.
Recognizing Brazil’s global role, the report recommends that the Obama administration now fully endorse the country’s bid for a seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). It argues that “a formal endorsement from the United States for Brazil would go far to overcome lingering suspicion within the Brazilian government that the U.S. commitment to a mature relationship between equals is largely rhetorical.”
Domestically, Brazil’s “inclusive growth has translated into a significant reduction of inequality, an expansion of the middle class, and a vibrant economy, all framed within a democratic context.” Consequently, Brazil has been able to use its economic bona fides to leverage a stronger position in the international, commercial, and diplomatic arenas.
The report stresses the importance of regular communication between the presidents of both countries. “Cooperation between the United States and Brazil holds too much promise for miscommunication or inevitable disagreements to stand in the way of potential gains.” A mature, working relationship means that “the United States and Brazil can help each other advance mutual interests even without wholesale policy agreements between the two,” notes the report.
The Task Force further recommends that
- the U.S. Congress “include an elimination of the ethanol tariff in any bill regarding reform to the ethanol and biofuel tax credit regime.”
- the United States “take the first step to waive visa requirements for Brazilians by immediately reviewing Brazil’s criteria for participation in the Visa Waiver Program.”
- the U.S. State Department create an Office for Brazilian Affairs and the National Security Council (NSC) centralize its efforts under a NSC director for Brazil in order to better coordinate the current decentralized U.S. policy.
The bipartisan Task Force includes thirty distinguished experts on Brazil who represent a range of perspectives and backgrounds. The report includes a number of additional views by Task Force members, including one that notes, “We believe that a more gradual approach [regarding Brazil’s inclusion as a full UNSC member] would likely have more success in navigating the diplomatic complexities presented by U.S. support for Brazil.” Another view asserts, “If the United States supports, as the Obama administration has said it does, leadership structures in international institutions that are more reflective of international realities, it must support without qualifications Brazil’s candidacy [for the UNSC].”
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