ANYA SCHMEMANN: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Anya Schmemann. I'm director of communications at the Council on Foreign Relations. And it's my pleasure to be here today to discuss a new task force report released by the council on Tuesday. The report is "Global Brazil and U.S.-Brazil Relations." It's the product of an independent task force, and its subject is Brazil.
The effort was chaired by Samuel Bodman, former U.S. secretary of Energy, and James Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank. It was directed by Julia Sweig, who's CFR's senior fellow for Latin American studies.
CFR task forces are independent. The findings and recommendations of the task forces are those of the members and the members alone. So CFR takes no institutional position on issues. The members of the task force -- there were 30 experts from a variety of backgrounds and positions -- signed on in their own capacity. Also, their signatures do not represent their own institutions.
We're pleased to be joined today by two members of the task force: by Julia Sweig, who's the director, and by member Donna Hrinak. Julia Sweig is the Nelson and David Rockefeller senior fellow for Latin American studies, director for Latin American studies and director of CFR's Global Brazil Initiative at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Donna Hrinak is vice president for global policy at PepsiCo and served as U.S. ambassador previously to Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic. And they've had a number of previous government assignments. So we're very pleased to have both of you.
The task force report is available on CFR's website at www.cfr.org. And we do welcome you to download it there.
Julia, let me turn to you first for just a brief overview of the findings and recommendations of the report. Why was this task force assembled? What questions was it hoping to address? And what were its overall conclusions?
JULIA SWEIG: Thank you, Anya. And thanks to all of you for joining me and for joining Donna Hrinak today.
The motivation for assembling this group of people to look at Brazil was the realization that in a relatively short period of time in historical terms, Brazil has become and is becoming an increasingly relevant and important global actor on the international stage, as well as in South America. The size of its economy, the successes of its economic and social programs, the expansion of its foreign policy agenda -- again, within a relatively brief period of time -- have not been, I would say, met nor sufficiently understood by U.S. policymakers especially.
And so we started out with a modest objective of trying to do our part to explain this new Brazil to the American policy community principally, but also to others in and out of government and the private sector, in the NGO community, civil society. And that was the major motivation, and to stimulate, we hope -- and this gets to the U.S. policy context -- smarter, better, more adequate approach by the United States in its relationship to Brazil, both bilaterally, regionally and with respect to major global issues of the day and going forward.
And so the structure of the report is, we cover the Brazilian economy -- of course, Brazil is set to be, over the next two years, perhaps the fifth-largest economy of the world, so we took a -- take a look at its engines and obstacles. Brazil had in 2010 7.5 percent growth. It may go down a bit in the next year, but by -- all analysts are expecting it to continue in its growth pattern.
There are obstacles that we also address, too, some of them structural, some of them quite addressable.
We also take a look at Brazil's energy and climate change agenda and make the case that, for a number of reasons, Brazil -- that agenda places Brazil at the center of many key global issues, and more so going forward as and if Brazil develops the significant oil findings in the Tupi and other oil fields.
On the foreign policy front, both in South America and internationally we take a look at how Brazil is playing, both in regional institutions and in the G-20 -- in -- also, even on the issues more recent to Brazil's foreign policy, such as the Middle East; and, of course, conclude with Brazil and the United States, the relationship, and lay out a number of recommendations for the United States, and for Brazil too, for deepening that engagement. And as you see, we call for a much stronger, more mature partnership than we've seen to date.
And some of our key recommendations I know Donna will go into, so I will stop there.
SCHMEMANN: OK, excellent. Thanks, Julia.
Donna, you served previously as ambassador to Brazil and are a frequent visitor there. What has changed in Brazil since you were posted there? There's new leadership in Brazil, but what is new about the U.S.-Brazil relationship and going forward? And then as Julia mentioned, if you can just touch on some of the key recommendations of the report.
DONNA HRINAK: Well, thank you, Anya, Julia, and everyone who's on the call. I just want to start out by saying I think this is a very important report, just because of all of the changes that have occurred since the last task force report on Brazil, which was back in 2001.
And I think you look at the different perceptions of Brazil over that time, that may be the most profound change. We went from a time when I was first preparing to go to Brazil as ambassador when I would say the country was either ignored or at least underestimated, both in the U.S. and in many other places around the world.
We've come to a point today where there is a hype about Brazil. It's become very chic to talk about Brazil. And one thing I think this report does quite well is strike a balance between these very impressive achievements in Brazil and the growth of Brazil as a global player and the need for continuing efforts in many areas, those challenges and obstacles that Julia mentioned.
I think the report also points out the many advantages Brazil has in engaging on some of the new issues facing the world: energy, food security, global health, and certainly environment and climate change.
With regard to the U.S.-Brazil relations, I think this report does a couple of things. I think it makes clear the many commonalities of interests between the U.S. and Brazil, not just on a global context, but commonalities -- internal commonalities as well, whether they are a need for education reform or infrastructure. We used to talk about Brazil and the U.S. having a common agenda in many cases on domestic issues. I think this report makes clear how many of those interests we share and also how we also share the difficulty sometimes of dealing with domestic politics when it comes -- when it relates to our foreign-policy agendas.
I think this report helps to take Brazil out of a strictly Latin America context for the United States and to put it much more into a global context. And it helps to guide the U.S. in working with Brazil as a -- as an entity, as a state that operates as a global player and not just as one of the Latin America neighbors.
I think we were encouraged as our conversations continued. And the task force has -- you know, this is the result of over a year's worth of work. But I think we were particularly encouraged by the Obama visit to Brazil and the kind of renewed interest in working together that he and President Rousseff appeared to endorse, and the fact that Obama came right out and said, you know, Brazil's rise is in the U.S. interest.
That encouraged us to make many recommendations to suggest how that -- those interests can be pursued. Most of the recommendations -- and we can discuss, you know, many of them individually, but they focus basically on just working more closely together, developing mechanisms that will further understanding and, importantly, avoid misunderstanding and missed signals, strengthening everything from trade and investment with, you know, some really basic bread-and-butter issues like the need for a bilateral tax treaty to increase cooperation on counternarcotics, expanding support -- collaboration we already have in areas like biofuels.
The specific recommendations are almost -- are much less relevant, I would say, than just putting them in this -- in this context of, work more closely together, be sure you consult early on on issues that we know are of importance to both countries, and just look for those opportunities where we can -- where we can work together.
Let me say one thing about one recommendation that I know people have expressed interest in, and that is the recommendation that the United States endorse Brazil's bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Those of us who have worked with Brazil for many years -- and I started my own engagement with Brazil back in 1984 -- have seen a tremendous evolution in Brazil in understanding its responsibilities as a global player. It has long wanted a seat in the Security Council. And I think that its increased engagement on the world scene, including playing a very important role in U.N. peacekeeping missions, has made -- has helped it make its case for that permanent seat.
We believe that the U.S. has -- because the U.S. has also endorsed permanent membership for leading states in other regions, that recognizing Brazil's merit for a seat immediately on the Security Council reflects the U.S. ability to see Brazil in that global context, rather than strictly any kind of regional representative.
And I think I'll just stop there.
SCHMEMANN: OK. Thank you, Donna.
Yes, as Donna mentioned, you know, the report is a consensus report, meaning that all the members did sign on to the consensus, meaning that they endorsed the overall thrust of the findings and recommendations, although not necessarily every finding and recommendation. And we do have a number of additional views that were appended to the report on a variety of issues, but views on this issue in particular about the timing and pacing of such an endorsement.
Julia, I wonder if you want to say just a few words about that, and then we can open it up to questions.
SWEIG: About the additional comments?
SWEIG: Sure. There -- as Donna and Anya mentioned, every member of the task force endorsed this report. And the difference over the Security Council endorsement that we recommend has to do with sequencing for those that submitted an additional comment, the first one you'll see lays out -- says, we agree with the argument that Brazil should hold such a seat, but there's a concern from some -- and I can share my interpretation of why there is that concern -- that the other countries in the region, in Latin America, first be consulted before the United States goes forward with that endorsement.
And I think partially that's a -- reflects a kind of more traditional Latin-American-ist view, although it's not only from that, that whatever country from the Americas were to hold a seat on an expanded Security Council, they would, as Donna indicated, perhaps be there to represent that region.
But as we argue very strongly, and as the majority suggests, Brazil needs to be on the Security Council, on an expanded Security Council, for reasons that go well beyond its leadership and emerging leadership in the Americas.
So was -- really, the bottom line was a matter of sequence and a matter of judgment about Brazil's relative weight and representation of the Americas versus its global portfolio that it brings to the table.
SCHMEMANN: OK, thank you. And again, this is a very broad report touching on a number of different areas, including energy and oil issues, Brazil's economy, social issues, its role in various multilateral organizations, in addition to the U.S.-Brazil relationship. So there is a lot to discuss here.
At this point I think we'll open it up for questions. So Operator, if you could give instructions for that, please.
OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am. (Gives queueing instructions.)
Our first question will come from Wai Su Shin (sp) of China Daily. Please go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Hi. This is (Chun Wei Huang ?), China Daily.
SCHMEMANN: Yes, go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Yeah, just came from a Brazilian -- a Brazil meeting in which one panel talked about the China versus U.S., the battle over Brazil. So I'm just wondering how you see this. Is this a zero-sum game for China and the U.S. in Brazil? Or this is just another sensational headline?
SCHMEMANN: Thank you.
Julia, why don't you take a first stab at that?
SWEIG: I think we talked about this, didn't we, in another -- on another occasion? I mean, I think that it is not a zero-sum game, and not -- I don't think that either China or the United States sees the Americas or the quest for Brazil's diplomatic or -- diplomatic or natural resources as a zero-sum game.
I do, however, think, of course, that China's been -- you know, Brazil is both dependent upon China; it's the country's largest investor. Over the last 10 years, China's growth has fueled that of Brazil by importing from Brazil soy, steel, wheat, beef. Everything, practically, that Brazil has to export, China's been buying.
But likewise, Brazil competes with China in its own market in Latin America and globally for -- on manufactured goods, as the rest of the developing world does as well, and developed countries, by the way. So I think the tension is real, but it's certainly not the sensationalist headline that you suggest. And I think Brazilian foreign policy has really especially -- we've seen it with the first two visits that President Rousseff had -- first receiving Obama there in Brazil and then going to China -- Brazilian foreign policy recognizes the importance for Brazil, long term, of managing the relationship with both countries -- for financial, economic, and trade -- and strategic reasons.
SCHMEMANN: Thanks, Julia.
Donna, do you have something to add on China, and particularly maybe on the monetary policy issues?
HRINAK: Yeah, I would just say I do think that kind of a headline obscures the complexities of the relationships, either the trilateral relationship or the two bilateral relationships that involve China, the U.S. and Brazil.
On the financial side, I think this is one of those areas in which Brazil and the United States, in fact, share a concern about the Chinese -- valuation of the Chinese currency. I think this is one area in which, as the report suggests, Brazil and the United States might work on some common language to describe the challenges that the Chinese policy is presenting to both of our countries as well as the rest of the world.
So I would agree with Julia that this is not a competition; this is a very complex global relationship. And again, I -- you know, if you look at Brazil not as a country of Latin America but as a global player, these -- this is a kind of relationship that develops. And you can talk about China, India and the United States, or China, Russia and the United States. I'd think about it in that context.
SCHMEMANN: Thanks. And just for any of those who have called in late, just a reminder that this is a discussion about the CFR-sponsored independent task force on Brazil. And we are joined by CFR's Julia Sweig and PepsiCo's Donna Hrinak, who is former ambassador to Brazil.
Operator, we'll take a next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Venisa Christa (sp) of the newspaper Estado. Please go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Thank you very much, Julia and Ambassador Donna Hrinak. It's a great opportunity to talk with you both. And -- well, I'd like to remember Ambassador Hrinak, that you, in the first years of President's Lula (sic) administration, he was very hard in his criticals to United States. And this behavior was the same just to the -- to the end of his government.
And we know that there's anti-American beliefs. Is it still present in the Rousseff administration, despite her position more favorable to an approach -- a new approach with United States? I would like to ask you if you think that this type of resistance to a better relationship with United States from Brazilian government can come -- be (faced ?) or can be assumed as a real barrier for a better relation.
SCHMEMANN: OK. Donna?
HRINAK: Well, hi, Venisa (sp). It's good to hear your voice.
QUESTIONER: It's great.
HRINAK: You know, I -- maybe I have a selective memory, but I don't recall that those first years of the Lula administration were ones in which he was so hard on the U.S. or whether there was so much tension between the U.S. and Brazil. You know, you'll recall that President Bush had invited President Lula -- President-elect Lula to Washington even before he took office. We established a great basis for cooperation between the two countries thanks to a lot of contact between members of the cabinet.
And in particular I recall the kind of discussions that now-President Rousseff had when she was minister of energy with her U.S. counterpart, who was Spencer Abraham at the time. And we talked a lot about biofuels cooperation. And it was those kinds of discussions that led eventually to, you know, the biofuels program that Brazil and the -- and the U.S. are pursuing together and in benefit of other countries.
So I guess I would say I think maybe that, you know, the differences were exaggerated, and unfortunately some of the areas where we had excellent cooperation were overlooked during that time.
As far as anti-Americanism, you know, I'll repeat something I used to say when I was in Brazil. I thought the anti-Americanism was a mile wide and an inch deep. That is, I thought that there was a lot of superficial sort of automatic -- knee-jerk is the term we would use -- reaction against the United States in certain areas, but that I thought that deep down most Brazilians in all levels, in all sectors of society, recognized just how much the U.S. and Brazil had in common.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SWEIG: Actually, could I just add a footnote to that? I have written extensively about anti-Americanism globally, but also in Latin America and in Brazil. And I would say that, you know, your question was about -- you know, the premise of it was that there was anti-American belief still present in Dilma Rousseff's government.
And, you know, we have, over the course of putting together this report, met extensively with many, many individuals in Brazil, in the Lula government and the Dilma Rousseff government. And I'm not sure exactly what you're talking about, but I would say that I didn't pick that up at all. I don't equate a difference in emphasis, in policy, in view between a Brazilian government and a U.S. government as an expression of anti-Americanism.
And I think one thing that we very much want to convey in this report is that the United States must grow accustomed to -- as it has with China, as it has with India, as it has with Russia -- having differences of views, strong differences, tension, even, conflict, without necessarily interpreting that as that country, you know, attempting to deliberately undermine the United States because of anti-Americanism or just period.
And that's, I think, a big, important hurdle with respect to Brazil that we try -- we are hopeful that we can push the U.S. policy community toward getting over, frankly.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: OK, thank you.
Operator, we'll take another question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from James Bosworth (sp). Please go ahead.
Mr. Bosworth (sp), please make sure your phone is not on mute.
And we'll go to the next question. It's Carolina Alvarez of El Mercurio paper of Chile. Please go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Hello. Thank you very much for taking this question.
As you -- as you mentioned, Brazil has shown an increasingly -- a more big power in the -- in the world. And the reports state that. And Brazil has shown that it's willing to take the power and use it. And it has placed some good ties with some countries that are problematic for the U.S., such as -- well, such as Venezuela, such as Iran. And I want to ask you if you see a role for a Brazil that's some kind of mediator between the U.S. and those countries, and if the -- if you think that the differences in the -- in the approach of Brazil towards those countries and how the U.S. sees that countries can be an obstacle for the relationship.
SCHMEMANN: Donna, why don't you take a first stab at that, as -- Brazil as helpful or not helpful.
HRINAK: Yeah, in a word, helpful. I -- obviously Brazil has taken a different approach toward some of the countries that you mentioned -- toward Venezuela, for example. But I don't -- but I think it's -- the sense of democracy is as strong as that of the United States. It carries out that defense in different ways, however.
We used to say that if President Lula could combine attention to social problems with a stable financial policy, that that would send a powerful message to the rest of the hemisphere. I think that his government and now President Rousseff's government are sending that message about how you build on your democratic strengths and you strive for more economic opportunity and greater sharing of the wealth in your country. That is the -- I think the most helpful thing that Brazil can do to pursue those kinds of interests in free markets and democratic values that the two countries share.
And Julia, this draws on your previous thread about having differences that we can live with.
SWEIG: Well, yes, it does. I mean, Carolina's question asked about, you know, can Brazil be a mediator. And I think Donna's answer opens the door to -- not -- the answer isn't -- you know, I don't -- I'm not sure, and of course the Iran effort last year with Turkey is a -- is one example where perhaps Brazil clearly hoped, I believe -- and sincerely so -- to provide some sort of mechanism to get talks started again -- yes, to avert sanctions, but for reasons that I believe were sincere.
And the Turkey-Brazil initiative with respect to Iran would have effectively mediated between Iran and the P-5 plus one, including the United States. But the specific mediation, sort of the literal mediation that was intended there, isn't always the only mechanism. And so that's the demonstration effect that Donna's pointing out, too, in terms of the success that Brazil is having at home with its domestic and social and economic programs. That demonstration effect I think we're seeing already.
And the best example really is very recently, for example, with the election in Peru, where the Brazilians not only through example but very directly did and are working -- for reasons that have to do with financial and economic interest, but also for foreign policy interest -- to show their stuff in a positive way and helped reshape the Humala candidacy to great success so far, at least in terms of his election.
And that, I think, is starting to be seen -- to just conclude here -- by Washington as quite positive, that kind of -- you know, literal kind of mediation and abstract demonstration effect of the Brazil model and diplomacy.
SCHMEMANN: OK, thank you.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: Operator, we'll take another question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Andrew Orihuela of Dow Jones. Please go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Good afternoon. I wanted to ask about trade relations. It's kind of a two-part question, because I think that the way Brazil has interacted with developed nations like the U.S. in the form of the WTO has really changed a lot in the -- drastically in the last 20 years. So maybe if you could shed some light, if you came across, in your analysis, why that relationship changed, especially with regard to litigation, maybe in the 2000s, and where you think the Brazil-U.S. relationship, in the context of the WTO and trade relations, is going. Is it going to be more antagonistic? More cooperative?
SWEIG: Donna, can you take that?
SCHMEMANN: Donna, can you take a first stab?
HRINAK: Sure. Well, you know, first to answer why the trade relationship has changed. I think Brazil has become more and more of a global trade player. Trade still plays a very small part in the Brazilian economy, but the fact is that they're running up against trade issues in different ways in different parts of the world now. And Brazilian companies in particular are engaging much more as multinationals. And so Brazil is realizing that, to defend its own companies, to defend its economic interests, that it needs to adjust its -- the way it carries out its trade relationships.
This is also an area where, you know, Brazil has, I think, a real stake in multilateralism. Brazil in general believes very strongly that, you know, global problems should be worked out in multinational fora. And it's -- you know, that is true on the political side; it's true on the financial side; it's also true on the trade side. And so I think that it sees its long-term interests in strengthening these organizations and in strengthening trade relations.
As to where the trade relationship might be going, I think as Brazil engages more and as Brazilian companies in particular engage more, you're going to find Brazil and the U.S. cooperating more globally. And I hope that means that the U.S. is going to stay just as engaged on these issues, by the way.
The -- you know, one of the big changes from -- over my experience with Brazil has been the emergence of the Brazilian private sector. And we alluded to these private-sector relationships and the importance of the private sector in the report also. Brazil's private sector has encouraged and demanded that its government understand what its companies need to be successful as multinationals. And I think that's made Brazil reflect on its trade relations.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: OK, thanks.
Julia, should I just take another question? Or do you have something to add?
SWEIG: Yeah. No, it's fine.
SCHMEMANN: OK. Operator, we'll take another question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. As a quick reminder, if you do have a question, please dial star-1.
Our next question will come from Matthew Lee (sp) of Inner City Press. Please go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Sure. Thanks a lot. I cover the U.N., so I wanted to ask about sort of foreign policy. Here there's a lot of particularly -- (inaudible) -- sort of Western members of the Security Council, criticism of Brazil's position on -- in particular, we have the resolution about Syria and the violence there. And there's -- you know, some are -- I know the French ambassador here actually wrote an op-ed in Brazil criticizing the government's policy. You know, what do you make of Brazil's position so far in its membership on the Security Council, in Iran, abstaining on the Libya resolution, and now on Syria being portrayed as sort of an obstructionist?
SCHMEMANN: Julia, why don't you take a first shot at that one.
SWEIG: Well, the -- let's -- I think we addressed Iran to a certain extent, but I'll start with Iran and say that the previous foreign minister, Celso Amorim, served on the Iraq sanctions committee in 2000 and -- I'm sorry, I'm going to get the date wrong, but at the -- about 10 years ago, when he was ambassador to the United Nations; had strong objections to the humanitarian consequences of sanctions, and with respect to Iran, now fast-forwarding, Amorim, the foreign minister, and President Lula believed that the -- avoiding a replay of the war in Iraq was something that they were personally motivated to do and had foreign-policy reasons that sort of were very, very deep in Brazil's foreign-policy ethos to try -- not necessarily in the Middle East but generally -- to see themselves as peace-builders, as conflict-avoiders, and to try to broker a nonviolent solution to the conflict with Iran.
The Libya resolution, 1973, that Brazil abstained from, it joined India, China, the -- all the other BRICs, plus Germany, in that abstention. And I saw that as quite consistent, again, with Brazilian foreign policy -- not just recent foreign policy for Brazil, but historically. So very, very consistent.
And with respect to Syria, you know, the -- I think the jury is still out. I understand that there was a great deal of conflict with France over that, but I think that one thing that was at play -- and this is germane to the trade question too, and we forget this often -- our domestic politics. There were a couple of resolutions, I believe, that passed in the Brazilian congress, which is becoming more and more active in weighing in on foreign policy, condemning 1973, that resolution, and also a great deal of resistance on the Syria front that I believe Itamaraty is increasingly sensitive to, as our foreign-policy operatives are themselves when they conduct foreign policy.
So the -- we're going to see domestic politics at play on trade policy, and it will impinge to some extent on the U.S.-Brazil trade relationship. And in foreign policy, domestic politics and voices will impinge.
But the -- I'll just stop there.
SCHMEMANN: Donna, how do you interpret Brazil's role at the United Nations and also, more broadly, at other multilateral organizations? And do you see consistency from the Lula regime to now the Rousseff presidency?
HRINAK: Yeah, I think the value that Brazil places on multilateral institutions is -- this is a Brazilian value; this isn't specific to any one administration or any one party. And you can go back at least to the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration and see the same attention and the same respect being given to strengthening multilateral institutions, whether they were ones that were already existing or creating new ones in the region, for example. So I do think that there's a consistency.
This is -- you know, Brazil has borders with nine countries in South America, and it resolved its border disputes peacefully. That, I think, was an early lesson in Brazil history, that through discussions and peaceful solutions, you could solve problems through peaceful means. And that's a very strong, prevalent view within Brazilian society.
I also want to just endorse what Julia said about more complex foreign policy making in Brazil. And Brazilian congress certainly is playing more of a role. Itamaraty at one time had, you know, virtual monopoly on foreign policy making. There are a lot of other Brazilian ministries now that play a role as well, as the foreign policy agenda has gotten more complex and includes issues of, you know, science and technology and climate change and energy and health care. And civil society is a lot more vibrant in Brazil in also speaking out on foreign policy.
So if you -- you know, looking at Brazilian motives and -- you could do quite well by looking at what players are active in U.S. foreign policy and seeing those same groups reflected in Brazil.
SCHMEMANN: Thank you.
Operator, we'll take another question.
OPERATOR: Thank you for the question. Our next question will come from Tony Cabin (ph) of CBS News. Please go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Yeah, it's -- (audio interference) -- if I successfully made this work.
SCHMEMANN: You're there, Tony (sp).
QUESTIONER: I think so. Tell me what I'm supposed to do. Can you hear me?
SCHMEMANN: Yes, we can hear you. (Inaudible.)
QUESTIONER: OK, I'm sorry. Just following up a bit before, I mean, somebody said very early here that there seemed to be a great deal of anti-Americanism, which was contested by some of the members of the panel. And yet at the same time there does seem to be a sort of "whatever the U.S. is doing, we're doing the opposite" thread running through a lot of Brazilian foreign policy, in the sense that whether it's Iran or Syria or Libya or, for that matter, in Honduras, where the Brazilians actually took a much more assertive role than the United States did in trying to restore constitutional government.
So my question would be, is this just reactive to U.S. policy? Or is there a Brazilian sort of vision of what they're trying to do in the world? And if so, what is that vision?
SWEIG: (Chuckles.) I guess the best thing to do to get a sense of the Brazilian vision in foreign policy is to actually read the recent writings of the last several foreign ministers, which, despite the fact that they -- you know, there's arguments and some partisanship, is remarkably consistent, and I would say going back from Cardoso through Lula -- they would disagree with this, but Cardoso through Lula toward -- up through Dilma so far. And the central point of Brazilian foreign policy actually goes back even further, to the military in the 1970s, for example, is independence -- independence not just from the United States but from other great powers forging independence.
And so of course independence when you're talking -- when we're sitting in Washington and New York talking about Brazilian foreign policy -- and again, you know, difference from the United States looks like deliberate opposition to the United States. But I don't think that that's the driving force, although in some cases it accrues to Brazil's benefit to be on the other side of an issue, such as the case of Honduras, where, you know, I think when the coup happened most Brazilians probably, you know, didn't really know where Honduras was. It's just really not in the South American sphere whatsoever.
But they came to see themselves as defending the liberal order by, as you say, working very hard to reinstate constitutional democracy, and doing it quite differently than the United States. The way the Brazilians went about it for some time -- and not for the entire period of the two years that we just saw unfold -- ultimately, you know, came to be seen as sort of obstreperous because they held out for a very, very long time. But they were also very much wed(ded) to calling a spade a spade, noting that this was a coup and insisting that the redress be legal and democratic and that the message going forward would be clearly that only democratic change is legitimate.
So they happened to come out, you know, in opposition to the United States there. It benefited them well. But I don't think that that's the principal reason that they did it.
But I would say, watch and what you'll see is expressions of independence, commitment to multilateral institutions, and peaceful nonviolent resolution of conflict as the sort of three signposts of Brazilian foreign policy. And right there, those three do sometimes run into direct conflict with the United States. But they're not formulated in order to do so, in my view.
SCHMEMANN: Donna, would you like to add?
HRINAK: I would just add that in the report we talk about the U.S. and Brazil striving to -- for a mature partnership, a mature friendship. And I think it's a sign of maturity that Brazil is not defining its policy strictly in terms of how it will affect the United States or how it might conflict with or coincide with what the U.S. is striving for, in the tactical sense.
I really think that the two countries share just very fundamental values and fundamental interests. And in the strategic sense, I think we're working toward the same goals, although the difference in tactics often causes some tensions that obscures those goals.
SCHMEMANN: Thank you. We'll take another question.
OPERATOR: Thank you for the question. We have a follow-up question from Carolina Alvarez of El Mercurio -- (inaudible). Go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Hello. Thank you again.
Assistant Secretary Valenzuela is leaving the State Department at the end of this month. And perhaps the change of the face of Latin American policy is a perfect moment to implement these -- some of these recommendations you are doing in the report. My questions are to -- what should be the first sign or the first -- or the priority policy to start with this -- some kind of a new stage of the relationship?
And also, if you could or -- who would you recommend to replace Valenzuela, and just to make better the relationship with Brazil? Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: Well, we're presenting this task force report, and of course that was not a subject tackled by the task force, so I think we will not answer your second question.
SCHMEMANN: But in terms of the first one, first-order priorities, Donna, I wonder what you would say to that.
HRINAK: Yeah, I think, you know -- I don't want to prioritize among our recommendations, except to say that one of the first things we say is that the United States should begin to treat Brazil in a new way, and that includes in a new institutional way, which would mean having a senior official at the U.S. -- at the National Security Council be responsible for Brazil alone, an NSC director just for Brazil. We also recommend that there be a special office in the State Department for Brazilian affairs, not just including Brazil in the Office of Southern Cone Affairs.
So if Assistant Secretary Valenzuela's departure provides an opportunity to make some changes immediately in -- that respond to these recommendations, I think those are a couple of internal bureaucratic changes that can be made relatively quickly and would send an important signal.
At the same time, I -- you know, I don't want to -- even though it's my former home, you know, these are not recommendations that depend on the State Department -- certainly not any one official, but not even on any one department. These recommendations go to a broad swath of the U.S. government. It goes both to the administration, to Congress, and to -- you know, many Cabinet secretaries, many independent agencies that need to collaborate on this very broad relationship. And I think the report emphasizes that -- the breadth of the relationship and the importance of engaging experts across the agenda.
Julia, I wonder if you can add a word there about the thematic approach that we are advocating for Brazil, as opposed to the country-specific approach.
SWEIG: Sure. And I would just reinforce Donna's point that this decision -- the recommendation of creating a separate Brazil office, director at the NSC and office at the State Department, isn't something that need be dependent upon whomever becomes the new assistant secretary. The key issue is that what we've found is that, you know, if you look at finance, trade, energy, environment, agriculture, health, homeland security, defense, diplomacy, each of these issues has an executive branch agency in the United States and in the United States government. And we have found, in going to -- looking for who's the key person in each of these agencies that works with and on Brazil-related issues? Do they talk to one another? Do they coordinate? And the answer is, it's hard to find them; they do exist; there's some coordination, but not nearly the degree where it should be.
So that's -- that very much goes to Donna's point that this is, although an important one for the State Department, this is a whole-of-government challenge and one that we hope, frankly, the White House itself will undertake to address.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: All right. We're nearing the end of our hour, so we'll take any last questions at this point.
Operator, if you could just give a reminder about how to queue in, and then we'll take another question.
OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am. (Gives queueing instructions.)
Our next question will come from Eric Martin of Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. My question involves trade as well. When President Obama was in Brazil in March, he and President Rousseff signed the trade and economic cooperation agreement. I know that Trade Representative Ron Kirk has said that a -- some kind of stronger trade relationship, even a free trade agreement, either a multilateral or bilateral, that would involve Brazil makes sense for the future. And I'm just wondering if you've seen any progress towards that in the last several months, since the president's trip, and what the greatest impediment to strengthening and increasing that trading relationship is.
SWEIG: Well, the administration -- what I've observed is a lot of focus on the Panama/Colombia/Korea trade agreements and getting those moved through Congress. And, you know, in the Colombia case there's a long list of benchmarks that the Colombian government is working with the United States to address.
Has -- I -- to my knowledge, the agenda hasn't advanced much on the trade front. And we're going into an election season here in the United States, so it could be some time before more meat gets put on that bone, although Donna may know more about that.
HRINAK: No, I actually agree with you. I don't think on -- sort of the overall trade relationship has advanced very much, the big picture, if you will. Certainly there are activities taking place in specific areas, be they on -- towards an aviation cooperation program, for example, similar to the one that the U.S. has with India and China, or -- and, you know, some food-security issues and food-safety issues between the FDA and the Brazilian counterpart.
But, you know -- and the macro terms about how do we move this agenda forward for a free trade agreement, for example, I -- I'm afraid, you know, the administration's just been focused on other issues.
At the same time, you know, there was an agreement after the WTO resolution on the cotton dispute that the United States would be financing -- providing financing to the Brazilian Cotton Institute as we worked out our final response to WTO decision. And I know the administration has been actively working to ensure that that money is preserved.
SCHMEMANN: OK, thanks.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Bradley Brooks of Associated Press. Please go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Thank you guys for taking the call.
Politically, Dilma seems to be much weaker than Lula was, at least in his last three years in office -- doubly so given the scandals that have hit Dilma recently, her administration. And I'm just wondering how you guys are reading her ability to push through the foreign agenda that she might want given that, as you mentioned, the Brazilian congress is becoming a little more aggressive in how it -- how it affects foreign policy and also just the fact that Dilma is politically weaker inside of Brazil.
SCHMEMANN: Julia, you were there not so long ago. What were your observations about the political situation?
SWEIG: Donna was there as well.
You know, I still think it's early days. It's true, you know, the first hundred days are out, she's had a couple of major resignations recently. Domestic politics are key. Her domestic agenda, by the way, is her priority. And I would say that, you know, the launch of the hunger elimination program and her infrastructure challenges, headaches, preparing for the Games, the social-inclusion agenda, the economic agenda, inflation, the financial/monetary issues, those are really her agenda.
And the foreign policy agenda -- you know, the kind of high-wire, larger-than-life foreign policy that we saw under Lula -- I think her agenda actually is to tone that down a little bit and to more closely align her domestic agenda with her foreign policy priorities and make the latter serve the former.
So I frankly haven't seen yet much weakening of her ability to get things done on the foreign policy agenda. By the way, you know, this is maybe -- you know, not significant to an outsider, but the Food and Agricultural Organization just voted for a Brazilian, the founder of Zero Fame -- Fome Zero, excuse me, the anti-hunger program under Lula, to be the new head of the Food and Agricultural Organization.
Brazil is an agricultural power, a huge agricultural heavyweight, and will be playing a role on food security going forward. And that position is important and has a direct tie-in to Brazil's domestic agenda. And I think we might see more, you know, pushes in that kind of direction to link the foreign policy priority and agenda to the domestic agenda.
And I think, in a short period of time, so far, so good, frankly.
SCHMEMANN: Donna, Brazil's political challenges seem to me somewhat similar to ours in the United States. What are your thoughts about President Rousseff's ability to push through her agenda?
HRINAK: Yeah, I think they are, in many cases, quite similar to those that we have in the U.S. Certainly -- and I'll speak somewhat from my position as a former U.S. government official, but in particular as someone working with a company that's doing business in Brazil now -- there are pieces of the domestic agenda that would be very important for business in Brazil as well. And these are reforms that frankly, you know, we had hoped that President Lula would be able to push through, and he was not able to.
But, you know, we still -- labor reform and flexibility would be important -- for example, a more comprehensive tax reform -- in addition to, you know, just ensuring that there's continued movement on infrastructure. And I know that the World Cup and the Olympics are great impetuses for the -- for infrastructure development. But, you know, it's not just for those two sporting events. It's also to strengthen the ability of companies, both Brazilian and the U.S., to move product around the country.
So I agree with Julia that the domestic agenda has priority. And I think there's -- it is difficult to get those kinds of major reforms through Congress. But if she were able to make progress on some of these reforms, it would certainly have a positive impact on trade and investment relations with Brazil's major partners.
SCHMEMANN: OK. Thank you. I think we'll have time for one last question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our final question will come from Venisa Christa (ph) of the newspaper Estado. Please go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Thank you again for this opportunity. I'd like to return to this point about the possibility that the recommendations to be adopted and endorsed by the U.S. administration. It would have been -- do you have a really sensation that it is possible to have an office in Department of State dedicated only to Brazil, and in National Security Council, in other -- you know, secretaries and the departments?
And also, do you believe that it would be reasonable for the Obama administration to give his support for Brazil to getting the U.N. Security Council?
SWEIG: Well, I'll take the U.N. Security Council piece and then let Donna take the first part of the question.
Yes, we believe that it's eminently reasonable, wise, and the right thing to do for the administration to endorse Brazil for a seat on the Security Council, just as it did India. This is -- this is an easy one, most especially because we all know that actual reform and expansion of the Security Council is a ways away, and this would position the Obama administration as having said and done and committed itself to the right thing, to having institutions of global governance reflect international realities. Without having, you know, a major opposition to it, as there was none really to speak of to India.
This is the right thing to do. And I believe that -- I'm speaking for myself here -- that it would pretty significantly change, and in a positive way, the dynamic with respect to the capacity for the United States and Brazil to do things together going forward with less tension, in fact, than we've had in the past. It would be a challenge for Brazil to assume that position, but it would also be a challenge for the United States to accommodate to new actors such as Brazil on the Security Council. And I think the Obama -- for the president to pay attention to this, I think the argument would make itself, and it's the right thing to do.
HRINAK: And on the first part of your question, then, Venisa (ph), I think those recommendations are important, but more important, even, is the recommendation that the U.S. and Brazil just strengthen their contacts and institutionalize their contacts overall. There are a lot of informal consultations between ministries with the same mandate in both countries.
Formalizing those kinds of contacts, as we have with other countries where we have regular Cabinet -- regular meetings with Cabinet secretaries and ministers across the board would be, I think, an important way of elevating the U.S.-Brazil relationship that goes beyond whether you establish any particular new office in the State Department. I just think that one of the most important contributions this report makes is to -- just to say, you know, we have a -- we are addressing these issues in our report because both the U.S. and Brazil have serious roles to play on these issues and because these issues affect the future of both of our countries, we need to collaborate more closely on them.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
SCHMEMANN: All right, thank you. And with that, thank you all once again. This was a conversation about the CFR-sponsored independent task force report on Brazil. The report is available on CFR's website, www.cfr.org. And the report endorses a stronger and more mature relationship with Brazil. And we were pleased to be joined today by task force members Julia Sweig and Donna Hrinak. A transcript of this call will be available probably tomorrow, also posted on the website.
So thank you all.