PrintPrint CiteCite
Style: MLAAPAChicago Close


Media Conference Call: April and the Americas

Speakers: Shannon K. O'Neil, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program, and Julia E. Sweig, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies
Presider: Toni Johnson
April 5, 2012
Council on Foreign Relations



TONI JOHNSON: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this Council on Foreign Relations media conference call. I'm Toni Johnson. I'm a senior editor and senior writer for

With us today on the phone is CFR's director of Latin America studies, Julia Sweig, and Douglas Dillon Fellow for Latin America Studies Shannon O'Neil.

We're here today to discuss Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's U.S. visit Monday and also the Summit of Americas meeting next week.

So I'm just going to open it up to questions, because our two presenters are very tired. So let's get the first question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, at this time we'll open the floor for questions. (Gives queuing instructions.)

And I think our first question comes from Silvia Ayuso from the German Press Agency.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Good evening. Thank you for doing that.

My question is mostly regarding the Cartagena summit, the Summit of the Americas. I was wondering if you could tell us, from your point of view, what should we expect, what -- from the U.S. point of view, I mean, what is there to expect that has to be achieved? What has Obama to gain by going at this point to Cartagena, with all the problems that have arisen with the Cuba question and also the drug debate, where the U.S. is a bit reluctant to get into it? So what kind of ambience will there be for Obama?


JOHNSON: Shannon, why don't you jump in?

O'NEIL: Sure. Well, great. This is Shannon O'Neil. It's a pleasure to be here talking with all of you.

I would say at the Cartagena summit that there are sort of two big challenges, and the first challenge the Obama administration has actually gotten past, and that is the ongoing challenge of Cuba and whether Cuba is going to be involved or not in the summit process. And through some quite delicate diplomacy that we saw a few weeks back, Cuba will not be there, but almost all the other presidents, with the exception of Correa, from Ecuador, will be coming to the summit. And so that was the first challenge. Obama will get to go to the summit but will not have a photo opportunity or will not be subjected to a photo opportunity with Raul Castro, which was really a no -- a no-start deal in an election year. So that's the first challenge.

But then the real challenge, now that -- now that everyone's going, with the exception of Correa and the Cubans, is what comes out of this and what is the United States going to get out of it.

I think the United States goes in -- they've said publicly that -- on the security issue that you just mentioned that they are willing to listen, they're willing to talk about how to approach the transnational security threat, particularly organized crime and drug trafficking. And so I think they need to be seen as listening to alternative views that have been gaining momentum and an audience with many heads of state throughout the region. So they need to be seen as listening, though I doubt we'll see any real change in policy, the way the United States actually promotes its policy or they way they frame their policy there.

But I think the other challenge Obama has in going to meet with these presidents is how to shift away from that issue to other issues, so how can Obama shift the discussion from security and drugs to issues of energy, to issues of economics and commerce and trade ties and to issues such as education, integration, connectivity, all those sorts of things where the United States actually has a lot to offer to Latin America and where there is a lot of common ground between a broad swath of nations, not all of the nations, but a broader swath of nations than, say, on some of the issues that are more divisive such as the security and drug issue.

SWEIG: I would just jump -- just two tiny footnotes to add to Shannon, which is, one, on the Cuba front, you know, we saw in the Trinidad Tobago summit a few months after Obama was elected that the countries -- almost all of the countries gathering at the summit likewise had a set of demands for the administration to hopefully begin to open a new chapter. That was President Obama's statement with respect to Cuba policy. And the summit was -- a great deal of time before and at the summit was taken up by Cuba. Again we see that. And in fact, over the last three years we've seen some small but not really significant or fundamental steps taken in the bilateral relationship and by the White House vis-a-vis Cuba.

So the summit is, you know, not a place to accomplish serious diplomacy with respect to U.S.-Cuban relations, but I think it's instructive that three years down the road still all of Latin America, and not just the ALBA countries, have had the Cuba issue sort of front and center on the eve of the summit, including with Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, on his way there just before the summit. So it's a perennial issue that any White House will continue to have to contend with until and unless it begins substantially to chance its policy.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Can I have the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am. The next question comes from Raymond Colitt with Bloomberg.

QUESTIONER: Hi, everybody. Hi, Julia. Hi, Shannon. Ray here in Brasilia. I wanted to switch a little bit to Brasilia -- I mean, to Dilma's visit next week. I mean, the sense is, of course, not much different. There has been some disappointment with the U.S. focus on issues that don't really interest Brazil. I'm wondering whether we can expect anything to come out of this visit at all. I mean, last time when -- in March last year when President Obama was here, there was a lot of good rhetoric, et cetera, but when you look at the degree of follow-up, again, it's rather low. Then there's been the case of the U.S. Air Force canceling the Embraer contract. There's been sort of a sense of, well, Americans promised investment in the oil sector; that didn't happen. They promised that Congress would give more guarantees for the fighter deal to go ahead; that hasn't happened. Is there anything potentially positive about this visit, anything that could move forward? And I forgot to mention the lack of progress on the double tax treaty. Is there anything at all that could be positive for either side?

SWEIG: Well, I guess I'll start with that. I don't see things quite as negatively, Ray, and perhaps that's because I'm looking at this, in a sense, through the -- a historian's frame. But you know, Congress did eliminate the ethanol tariff and credit to producers here. That has expired. That was a major agenda item for Brazil. That happened at the end of December of 2011.

The -- it's true that, you know, the timing for both of these two visits has, in the first case, coincided with, you know, early days in President Rousseff's office, and this visit comes almost into full swing of a presidential election here. And the items that you ticked off are sort of long-standing irritants, some of them, or sort of hurdles to overcome, and some of them are indeed major. But, you know, I think that there's a great deal of connectivity that the two -- between the two societies, that the two governments are trying to figure out how to catalyze and braid together, and in some cases how to get out of the way of.

And you know, the numbers are so -- still small. You hear about Science Without -- excuse me, Science Without Borders, and you hear President Rousseff's objective of having a hundred thousand Brazilian students travel and study abroad. And the number 600 of Brazilian students that are now in the States seems small, but this is -- this is sort of a strategic approach, I think, that (a special issue ?) she is taking and also this country in terms of trying to figure out how two giant continental-size powers right here in the Americas are going to relate to one another, two countries that actually don't have a long history of deep ties to one another.

So I see this as early days, and I actually think there's a great deal of thinking behind the diplomacy that's pushing the two countries in a different direction, trying to figure out where sort of on innovation and technology and education -- the kind of space, in fact, back to Shannon's point, where the United States and the other Latin American countries could and should also be connecting to one another. That's where Brazil and the United States are, you know, pushing forward.

It's slow. There's domestic politics in both countries. There's bureaucratic politics in both countries. But the items are on the table, and I think that, you know, this is -- this is not to be pooh-poohed, that the efforts are being made by both countries.

O'NEIL: Yeah, you know, I agree with what Julia (said ?). I'll just add a -- just a couple things.

You know, I think you -- we shouldn't discount that the ethanol tariffs were a big part of the issues that Brazil have with the United States and a -- and a big issue to overcome. We've also seen a real expansion of the staff for visas and trying to overcome the challenge and the bottleneck there. And I think just the expanding U.S. presence in Brazil, both diplomatically in terms of this meeting we're seeing in Washington, but we saw joint chief of staff down there, I guess, last week or the week before. We're seeing Clinton and Panetta head down there after the Summit of the Americas. This back and forth and getting everybody comfortable in working with each other, consulting with each other, getting to know each other, I do think has sort of a medium- to longer-term benefit as we try to deepen the relationship.

And you know, many of the things, Ray (sp), you brought up are things that actually have to happen from the private sector. And so the role is for the governments to, in many ways, get out of the way. And so the tax treaty -- that's obviously something that's taking some time to do so. Any sort of trade agreement isn't just on the United States side, but it's on Mercosur (ph) in that can they allow third parties or others to come in?

So there are, you know, big challenges there, but I do think we'll start seeing, not in this meeting perhaps, but as we go forward, as the two countries consult and work with each other back and forth more on all sorts of levels in government, more progress. But it's going to be a medium- to long-term thing.

QUESTIONER (?): Great. Thanks so much.


OPERATOR: (Gives queuing instructions.)

All right, our next question comes from Clovis Rossi with Brazilian Daily (sp).

QUESTIONER: Good afternoon, Julia. Good afternoon, Shannon. My question is more a little the same that the guy from Bloomberg posed, but changed -- the chief thing, the potentially positives and the potential negatives. Do you both believe that Iran could be a problem in the -- in the -- during the -- (inaudible) -- the United States? You must -- (inaudible) -- in media recently, during the last week, that the sanctions that the United States is trying to impose, besides the sanctions that are approved by the Security Council, are dangerous. And that's -- the main purpose of the United States with these sanctions is to try to force the Iranian regime to comply with the international -- (inaudible) -- about the nuclear problem. Is -- could be that issue (re ?) Iran a potentially negative aspect during the visit?

SWEIG: Hi, Clovis. Nice to hear your voice. I -- I'll take a crack at that. I think that the main lesson that has been learned since the Tehran Declaration of May 2010 with respect to Iran and other major international security issues between the United States and Brazil is to manage disagreements.

And I don't think there will be any surprises in the way that President Dilma and President Obama talk to one another about Iran. Washington is well-aware of Brasilia's objection to the use of sanctions, of why Brazil objects to the use of sanctions generally. And Brazil likewise is very clear about Washington's approach to using sanctions as a tool for negotiation and to pressure Iran. I don't think there's any ambiguity.

So I don't think that the -- I think managing disagreement is now the way forward. They -- there will certainly be discussions about Iran, about Libya, about Syria and whatever the next possible crisis that provokes a disagreement, whether it's in the Middle East or elsewhere. But they're developing the tools to talk to one another about these -- about these clashes.

O'NEIL: Yeah, let me just add on there, and just expanding a little bit beyond your question, Clovis (sp), is about the Brazilian-Iranian relationship. And there I agree with Julia that Washington is now coming around to -- we agree to respectfully disagree on how -- on the tools that should be used internationally for particular outcomes and how you get there.

But I think Washington is quite supportive of what is seen, from the United States at least, as a real change on the Brazilian government's approach to the Iranian government from the previous administration to Dilma's administration. And so, you know, the fact that Ahmadinejad did not stop and meet with the president on his last tour of Latin America, the fact that she's been much more vocal on human rights issues and the like is seen quite positively. So I think some of the real tensions we saw in the -- about Iran from -- and Brazil's relationship with it back under Lula have really dissipated, at least in -- to some extent.

SWEIG: And just a tiny footnote there is that I think Washington recognizes Brazil's adamance about protecting its enrichment rights and its right to the nuclear fuel cycle, which is -- which underlies very strongly, in addition to the view on sanctions, Brazil's position vis-a-vis Iran.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Can I have the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am. The next question comes from blogger James Bosworth.

QUESTIONER: I think that Shannon -- (audio break) -- earlier, but the question I have is --

MS. : It's really hard to hear you. Are you calling from Skype?

QUESTIONER: Yeah, I -- yeah.

MS. : OK. All right.

QUESTIONER: Sorry. (Audio break) -- connection, I know.

MS. : OK, go ahead.

QUESTIONER: Sorry. You know, part of the problem here is that the summit has been distracted by debate over Cuba and -- (audio break ?) -- criminalization. I'm -- I was wondering what the United States can do to move the agenda to areas where we -- (audio break) -- agreement, such as energy or (IP ?) issues.

O'NEIL: I mean, as you know, these summits -- they've been working on a draft of a long document, and they've been, you know, focusing on and discussing and negotiating every comma and every period and every subjunctive clause. So what officially comes out of the summit has been decided and is a document that may look quite nice, and -- but trying to get 30-some countries to all agree on something is not going to say a whole lot except for a lot of aspirational things about where Latin America and where the hemisphere more broadly should be going. So in terms of the official outcome of the summit, I don't see that. But -- (inaudible) -- changing -- but the worries that you have, I also have, in sort of what really comes out of this.

But that said, those issues of energy or those issues of trade or economic opening or deepening, some of that stuff happens at the summit on the edges. It happens between discussions -- I mean, it is an opportunity, and I think the best of the summit, what it provides, is an opportunity for the heads of state from all the countries in the hemisphere, almost all of them, to come together and have a moment, a forced moment to talk, and it's a forced moment for their ministers and their staff to prepare -- to put these issues on the agenda and to talk with each other as well.

So in that, I think the issues -- if I'm going to be hopeful about it, in that, I think the issues of energy, the issues of commerce, the issues of integration, of infrastructure, all these sorts of things, actually, you could see movement forward. Some of it will be bilateral. Some of it may be -- have a more regional element to it. But there I do see some opportunities. It just -- it may not be highlighted in the press release that comes out on the last day.

JOHNSON: Thanks.

Can I have the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am. The next question comes from Helen Joyce with The Economist.

QUESTIONER: Hi. I was wondering if either of you feel that you have a handle on what exactly Brazil might mean by the formulation "responsibility while protecting."

SWEIG: The way that you characterized your question, it sounds like you're a bit skeptical about it, but I'll try to give it a shot. My understanding is that the insertion of the world "while protecting" into the phrase "responsibility to protect," which is the U.N. framework known in the shorthand as R2P for humanitarian interventions, I think it's an effort by Brazil to signal on the one hand that it recognizes -- that President Rousseff and Minister Patriota recognize that we are in a period of time now and going forward when U.N.-sponsored resolutions -- U.N. resolutions authorizing R2P interventions will continue to take place, and they will be imperfect but this is the 21st century framework, or one of them, for dealing with international conflict and military interventions.

Brazil prides itself on following the rules and operating in a rules-based international system while at the same time trying to expand the space for new and emerging powers to have a voice. We all know that Brazil aspires to have a seat on the U.N. Security Council. But one of the specific issues that's been -- that was very present during its two years as a rotating seat on the Security Council, that ended at the end of 2011, was the intervention in Libya and now the conflict in Syria. And I think that Brazil is trying to say to the international community and act constructively to create a space for a discussion about how to mitigate against Brazilian humanitarian damage that exceeds the level of civilian humanitarian damage that the interventions themselves were attempted to prevent.

So it's a big mouthful. But it seems to me that that's what's top of mind in the Brazilian formulation; that while we do these interventions, let's not make the problem worse than it was to start with.

And one of the things underlying that is, are R2P interventions becoming a sort of guise for regime-change interventions? That's how they and other countries that voted against the Libya resolution saw the Libya operation, for example.

And so that's one piece of your answer. The other thing is internally. You know, within Brazil there's a very strong anti-intervention ethos in foreign policy. Brazilians take pride in having not gone to war since the 1850s against Paraguay, with the exception of sending 25,000 troops to participate against the Axis in southern Italy during World War II.

There's a recognition, I think, with this "responsibility while protecting" proposal, that it's important to change the debate within Brazil and within Brazil's foreign policy elite and institutions, as well, to see that, you know, Brazil may well in the future -- there may be an opportunity that Brazilians themselves can accept to participate in such interventions.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thanks. Can I have the next question, please.

OPERATOR: Yes. The next question comes from Luciano Coello (ph) from Sella de Sapalo (ph).

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thanks for your time. I'd like to know about the expectations of the U.S. government regarding this visit, and actually regarding President Rousseff, because when she was sworn in, it seemed to be very high expectations that she would change the course, at least in human rights, after some declarations she gave after being elected. And so far we have some subtle changes but not so much a change of course.

So what are the expectations now? And what the U.S. government would like to accomplish or would like to see President Rousseff saying by the end of this visit?

JOHNSON: Shannon, do you want to start? I'll chime in, or --

O'NEIL: Sure. You know, I think the United States is quite cognizant that any new president coming in -- because we experience it ourself -- that shifting policy or shifting approach, particularly when it's continuity -- it's a president from the same party as the previous president -- that you're not going to see a sea change, usually, in policies, particularly from a very popular president to someone who also has become a quite popular president. So I don't think the United States had huge expectations that a switch from Lula to Dilma would be a night-and-day change, particularly the way the Brazilian election and the support base that Dilma depended on in the election -- that came from Lula. So I don't think we had huge expectations of a change.

But some of the expectations or hopes that they had have changed, in fact. So we've seen backing away from some the positions in Brazil on -- particularly on human rights and on Iran, which we talked about already. We've seen a real openness, I think, from Rousseff in engaging with the United States and particularly on areas that the United States is interested in as well, issues of innovation, issues of education, issues of economics, of commerce, and issues of energy, potentially.

So I think there is a real openness for the United States but also an understanding that the U.S.-Brazil relationship isn't going to move incredibly quickly. We're not going to go from, you know, somewhat cordial but distant, perhaps, to, you know, the closest of friends and closest of allies. But I think that's OK. I think if -- you know, there's -- these are the two -- or two of the big powers in the hemisphere. We have a lot in common in terms of big federal countries, many similar problems. And so slow approaches to finding where we can work together and the other areas that may be more difficult I think actually suits Washington as Washington starts to look more towards Brazil. It's going to take the United States time to do this as well, so I think probably the biggest challenge on both sides is to dampen incredibly high expectations that things are going to change overnight.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Can I have the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes. (Gives queuing instructions.)

I think our next question comes from Silvia Ayuso from German Press Agency.

QUESTIONER: Hello again. Thank you. I would like to ask -- back on the summit of Cartagena: There are -- in several meetings that have been going on these past days, the theory has arisen that one of the main goals of Colombia doing this, hosting the Summit of the Americas, is to promote President Santos as the next leading international political figure of the region, now that they say Dilma Rousseff is not that interested in -- like Lula was in assuming this international role and that Hugo Chavez -- (inaudible) -- health reasons has been like -- (inaudible) -- in this sense.

I was wondering if you agree with that view that Santos might try to be -- become the next international figure and how the U.S. is supporting this if it's true.

O'NEIL: Well, my understanding is that the place of the summit was decided back at the last summit, so before Santos was president, and so it wasn't his -- he wasn't choosing to have the summit in his country for his political career, as he wasn't yet president.

But it's obviously a great opportunity. You have the heads of state of all -- nearly every country in the hemisphere coming to your country. It's a great time to showcase your country and the great strides Colombia's made over the last decade or so in terms of improving security, rise of the middle class, economic dynamism and such. So it is a great platform for looking more internationally.

I mean, I think Santos has had a very full domestic agenda over his first year-plus here in office, but he is starting to look more broadly, both for Colombia -- how do you attract more foreign direct investment; how you keep the dynamism, economic dynamism that we've seen going -- but also for Colombia in general. How is it going to play into both places -- organizations like the OAS but also regional organizations, such as UNASUR and others? What role will it play vis-a-vis its neighbors; also, you know, vis-a-vis Brazil? Is there a cooperation that can go on there, as well as some complementarity?

So I think this is a positive thing for Santos and for the rise of Colombia and sort of recognition that Colombia is coming out of what has been a quite difficult few decades for the country.

SWEIG: Yeah, I -- Shannon is right. And if you just think back over the last few summits or over the last few other, you know, multilateral meetings or inter-American meetings when -- before Santos was elected, there was a lot of polarization and tension between Colombia and its neighbors. And to Santos' credit, that has essentially evaporated. And this is a moment now where we don't see Colombia isolating itself or sort of taking cover only in sort of the intensity of its relationship with its best friend, Washington; rather, we see a lot more coherence and much more looking south, including to Brazil, and Brazil to Colombia.

But I would say also that I think that one of the sort of historic lessons from Chavez's own attempts to anoint himself as regional leader or Fidel Castro's in the past or others' is that Latin Americans -- I don't think we're going to see sort of the coronation of one particular head of state in South America as, you know, the de facto leader or representative of the entire region in the international scene, not Colombia, not Brazil. It's a -- it's a -- it's a bit more fluid. And these new institutions that Shannon mentioned are new, but that's going to be the space where this will play out in the -- and I think fluidity will be the watchword, but at the moment a lot more -- a lot less tension than the past.

I want to go back to the one question on Brazil in terms of what are Washington's expectations for Brazil and will Brazil do what Washington wants it to do or something along those lines. You know, we're in a very, very different moment in the 21st century, and in terms of crafting alliances or strong relationships between significant powers, I think Washington is clear that it is not going to be able to sort of provide a to-do list for Brazil and watch as Brazil goes through and checks off those items on the to-do list, not within the region, not in various different global spaces, whether it's international finance or international security or climate change or food security, all of the different issues where the two countries have a stake globally.

I think what we are starting to see -- and this is why it feels slow and maybe somewhat dissatisfying -- is a process in which the sort of functional experts and individuals within the two governments who operate on -- in global spaces are figuring out how to work together. It's a very cumbersome process, but what it is not is one of those sort of tight old-fashioned alliance relationships that the United States had either with Latin American countries, but more particularly with larger economies in Asia or Western Europe in the 20th century. This is a very new world, and I would not expect either Brazil to sort of provide the to-do list to Washington or vice versa. So this is a -- it's a kind of new diplomacy they're crafting, and it's not sexy as much as it is strategic, but sort of a work in progress at the same time.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Can I have the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am. The next question comes from Flavia Barbosa with Globo newspaper.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Hello. Thank you for answering our questions. My question is President Rousseff wants the U.N. conference Rio+20 to be kind of a breakthrough in terms of how sustainable development policies will be implemented in the next few years by the global community, and she has been working really hard to have all the top leaders in Rio in tune. My question is how persuasive do you think can President Dilma be when talking to Obama to have him engage in this issue? And how -- is there any chance that Obama will attend the meeting? How do you see this?

O'NEIL: Julia, you want to start, or do you want me to take it?

SWEIG: Oh, you -- sure, I'll start. I mean, I don't know if Obama -- nobody can say for certain whether Obama will attend the meeting. I think it's possible that he won't, but let's just wait for him to say that officially. I mean, I don't have any inside information in that, but I think we all can observe that June is even further into the electoral calendar than April is. I'm sure there will be a very senior delegation from the United States there.

But, you know, to this question of sort of a -- a sort of sustainable green development model, especially for developing countries, I don't really think that President Obama is the one who's got the most stuff to show on that. It is, in fact, President Rousseff and the country of Brazil that over the last 20 years have shown really such significant strides in terms of developing a stronger middle class, reducing poverty and inequality and beginning -- and, of course, having a clean energy matrix at the same time, and opening the door in lots of different ways to talking about what green economy means, what the triple bottom line would mean for Brazil, and how, going forward, especially with this huge oil find, to -- but also as an environmental power, with the Amazon within its -- most of the Amazon within its border, of course, we know that Brazil has an enormous environmental stake or a stake in its own environment and the globe's environment. So this is really a forum, Rio+20, for Brazil, in many ways, much more than it is for the United States, I would say.

O'NEIL: You know, let me just add to that, Julia and I just got back this morning, actually, from Brazil, meeting with many people down there, many -- some of whom are involved in organizing the Rio+20 and some of the activities around it. And I think it's going to be a very difficult year for the United States because of election year, because of the political polarization, particularly around the issues of the climate, to make much progress, to put it in an understated way.

But I think there is a real space -- and this is what we were hearing down there -- for Brazil to move beyond the government. Yes, it would be great to get heads of state down there, and many, many will go, as well as very senior-level delegations. But expanding this to civil society groups -- obviously, there's many that are involved in the energy -- or in the environment space -- but also moving it to private sector and to business; and so how do you move this away from just a climate-change issue but to a green economy issue.

And so that switch or that expansion of this issue, I think, will be vital for the issue worldwide, but it's also something that can happen in the Rio+20.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Can I have the next question, please.

OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am. The next question comes from Helen Joyce with The Economist.

QUESTIONER: Hi again. I was wondering if you think there is any progress to be made while Dilma is in Washington about this question of the sort of what it seems to me to be a divergence between the two countries, and other countries lining along with each of them, about what it means to be protectionist. So from Brazil's point of view -- people are complaining that they're closing their borders or increasing taxes on money coming in or on imports, imported goods, but from their point of view, other people are doing something that's more of a trade distortion by printing enormous amounts of money.

Obviously, everyone has their own agenda here. Do you think there's any sort of progress that can be made in the discussion between the two leaders?

SWEIG: Shannon, you want to take that?

O'NEIL: Sure. I mean, this is a -- this is a really difficult question, obviously, around the world. And as you say, the United States and Brazil have very different approaches in how to stimulate their economies while keeping open to trade their borders.

I do think it will be an issue that will be discussed. And probably where progress could be made or at least discussions advanced would be looking at the challenges that Brazil and the United States jointly face, and that generally or basically means China, and how do these two economies, both that are seeing big floods of imports come in from China, that are seeing -- or feeling threatened by differences in currency exchange rates -- how might they -- probably not in a formal way, not in a very concerted way, but how might they interact or cooperate, in some sense, in helping bolstering their economy vis-a-vis what is often seen as a China threat?

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you. Can I have the next question, please.

OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am. Our next question comes from Clovis Rossi with Brazilian daily.

QUESTIONER: Hello again. My question is chiefly to Julia. And do you see any chance, although it is small, of President Obama accepting the advice of the CFR's task force suggesting that he should endorse Brazilian -- (inaudible) -- to a permanent -- as a permanent member of the Security Council?

And the second question is simple. When you say that the relationship between Brazil and the United States in -- is, in (Latin estimation ?), not sexy, we, or journalists, naturally are addicted to headlines. Can -- should I abandon any hope of having a strong headline during Dilma's visit?

SWEIG: Well, your first question is easier, Clovis. I -- the formulation that the State Department and the White House have come up with regarding the Security Council seats, much to my dismay, because I think it would be cost-free, really, to go as far as the United States did with India with respect to Brazil -- the United States has recognized and noted its respect for Brazil's aspirations for -- a Security Council seat but has stopped short of that.

And you know, I think there's a certain -- it's a bit futile to elevate the Security Council issue and to insist on it when the White House has made it clear where it's drawing the lines. Now I don't expect that. I think it would be a welcome surprise if we were to hear something along those lines on this trip.

I think there's a recognition, however, having said that, that the Security Council eventually will be expanded and Brazil is a very, very likely candidate to be at the Security Council. And as Brasilia will point out, the United States' endorsement doesn't get the ball across the goal. That would be a vote by the General Assembly.

So I think this issue in some way sort of remains aspirational, but it seems not to be top of mind in the case of either government for this visit.

Oh, the second question -- big headline. I think we're going to have to wait.

JOHNSON: (Chuckling.) All right. Are there any further questions?

OPERATOR: No, ma'am, at this time we have no questions in the queue.


SWEIG: OK, let me tell you this. Wait, I want to say this.


SWEIG: Clovis, if I were writing the headline, I would -- I would say something along the lines of "Obama and Rousseff redefine 'special relationship.'" They are going beyond the old-fashioned 20th century special relationships of the sort of Anglo-American alliance that we saw here a few weeks ago celebrated, and they're defining something quite a bit different. They're redefining the word "special."

JOHNSON: Sounds good to me. (Chuckles.)

SWEIG: (Chuckling.) OK.

JOHNSON: (Chuckles.) If there are no further questions, I would like to thank everyone for joining us for this Council on Foreign Relations media call. And I'd like to thank Julia Sweig, our distinguished fellow for Latin America, and Shannon O'Neil, our Latin America fellow as well, who is also distinguished.

A reminder: that the audio and transcript of this call will be available later on the council's website,

Thank you, Julia and Shannon, for doing this.

O'NEIL: Our pleasure.

SWEIG: Thanks, everyone, for calling. Thanks. Bye-bye. Thanks.









More on This Topic


Colombia's "Third Way"

Author: Julia E. Sweig
Folha de Sao Paulo

Following Juan Manuel Santos' talk during UNGA, Julia Sweig reflects in her column on progress in Colombia since the beginnng of his...