Brazil & the US are Increasingly Important to One Another

This post is also available in: Português 

President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to Washington should be another positive step in an ongoing process of building greater mutual confidence and practical cooperation between the two largest nations of the Americas, two of the world’s six largest economies, and two of its most moderate and pragmatic national governments.

Some Brazilians have been distracted by discussion of why President Rousseff’s trip is not designated a “state visit,” but rather is being handled normally, as was President Obama’s visit to Brazil and as are more than 90% of presidential visits to Washington. A “state visit” involves extra pomp but no greater substantial importance or high level attention. Focusing on this protocolary detail could produce a self-inflicted wound by conjuring up a supposed “slight” where none is intended or implied.

The meetings in Washington should not be expected, however, to produce dramatic news or unexpected major breakthroughs. The two governments already enjoy a positive overall relationship, mutually respectful and broadly consultative. There is no crisis in the relationship that needs to be fixed.

It is entirely to be expected that countries of the size, complexity and diverse interests of Brazil and the United States will have some differences of the approach and priorities as well as analysis, and that domestic political imperatives in the respective countries may not only be different, but may be contradictory. Brazil and the United State continue to have to work out trade and tariff disputes, reconcile different approaches to managing global economic imbalances, and consult from different starting points about how to handle international issues ranging from uprisings in Libya and Syria to Iran’s nuclear program, and how to handle the Israel-Palestine impasse. These differences are neither trivial nor of critical import. The challenge for diplomacy, enhanced by exchange at the leadership level, is to assure that these differences are properly understood and put into context, that they are bridged insofar as is possible, and above all that they do not interfere with making progress in identifying convergences, overlaps and complementarities of interest and in fashioning concrete means of cooperation.

This week’s discussion focuses particularly on science and technology, education and energy, all at the heart of both countries’ efforts to improve productivity and competitiveness. The opportunities for cooperation are significant. Brazil is increasingly important to the United States, not only as an arena for investment but as a potentially greater export market for US goods and services, including tourism, attractive to the fast-growing and increasingly prosperous middle class. By the same token, the United States is increasingly relevant to Brazil, not only as a source of investment and as an export market, but as the world’s center for higher education and technological innovation.

Preparing for this visit has stimulated both governments to fashion and register progress on cooperation in the fields of education, technology and energy. If the two presidents can reinforce the momentum of cooperation on these questions, the Rousseff visit will surely be successful.

Suggested Content