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U.S. Must Develop Stronger, Mature Partnership with Brazil, Says CFR Task Force

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, fifth-largest population, and 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 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 arena.

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].”

The report is available at: www.cfr.org/brazil_task_force.

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Task Force Members

Jed N. Bailey, Energy Narrative

Samuel W. Bodman

R. Nicholas Burns, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Louis E. Caldera, Center for American Progress

Eileen B. Claussen, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Nelson W. Cunningham, McLarty Associates

Eli Whitney Debevoise II, Arnold & Porter LLP

Paula J. Dobriansky, Thomson Reuters

Shepard L. Forman, Center on International Cooperation

José A. Fourquet, DBS Financial Group

Maria C. Freier, Albert & Mary Lasker Foundation

Stanley A. Gacek*, U.S. Department of Labor

Sergio J. Galvis, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Kevin P. Green, IBM Corporation

Donna J. Hrinak, PepsiCo, Inc.

Robert L. Hutchings, LBJ School of Public Affairs

G. John Ikenberry, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Timothy M. Kingston, The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.

Thomas E. Lovejoy, The H. John Heinz Center for Science, Economics & the Environment

Jennifer L. McCoy, Georgia State University

Brian D. O'Neill, Lazard Ltd.

Joy Olson, Washington Office on Latin America

Michelle Billig Patron, PIRA Energy Group

David Perez, Palladium Equity Partners

Riordan Roett, The Johns Hopkins University

David J. Rothkopf, Garten Rothkopf

Andrew Small, Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States

Julia E. Sweig, Council on Foreign Relations

Tanisha N. Tingle-Smith, Verdade Consulting

James D. Wolfensohn, Wolfensohn & Company LLC

(*Gacek participated in the Task Force under his previous affiliation with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. As a current administration official, he has not been asked to join the Task Force consensus.)

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The Council on Foreign Relations sponsors Independent Task Forces to assess issues of current and critical importance to U.S. foreign policy and provide policymakers with concrete judgments and recommendations. Diverse in backgrounds and perspectives, Task Force members aim to reach a meaningful consensus on policy through private and nonpartisan deliberations. Once launched, Task Forces are independent of CFR and solely responsible for the content of their reports. Task Force members are asked to join a consensus signifying that they endorse “the general policy thrust and judgments reached by the group, though not necessarily every finding and recommendation.” Task Force members also have the option of putting forward an additional or a dissenting view. Members' affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional endorsement. For more information about CFR Task Forces, contact program director Anya Schmemann at aschmemann@cfr.org.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.