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Brazil is the Fulcrum: Independent Task Force Urges President Bush Quickly Recast U.S. Policy Towards Brazil

February 12, 2001
Council on Foreign Relations

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February 12, 2001 - With growing fears regarding the international economy, with Colombia on the edge of further chaos, and with the Summit of the Americas approaching in April and trade disputes between Brazil and Canada jeopardizing Brazil’s participation, Latin America in general—and Brazil in particular—are coming to the forefront of U.S. policy challenges. In response to this situation, a blue-ribbon Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations offers two recommendations:

First, that the United States needs a focal point to its policy in South America and that Brazil become that focal point. This is because Brazil is the pivotal state there, and because the United States and Brazil now share many key objectives in the hemisphere.

Second, that President Bush move swiftly to establish a standing high-level dialogue with Brazil on key issues ranging from drugs to trade to democratization to combating terrorism and transregional crime. The Task Force stresses that this can and should be done without the United States diminishing its ties to other Latin American states. The purpose of the bilateral dialogue is to enhance coherence and effectiveness of policy, not to exclude others.

"Latin America is going to become more important to the United States in the coming years, and more troublesome as well," said Stephen Robert, chair of the Task Force and Chancellor of Brown University and Chairman of Robert Capital Management. The Task Force was under the direction of Kenneth Maxwell, CFR Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Inter-American Affairs and Director of the Latin America Program. The Task Force included leading industrialists, bankers, scholars, and policy analysts. A list of members is attached.

U.S. policy toward Brazil in recent years, the Task Force states, has been one of benign neglect de facto. This attitude has had a negative impact on U.S. interests in the region. Unless this neglect is arrested, costs will be far greater. To correct this situation and to focus the work of the high-level dialogue between the United States and Brazil, the Task Force recommends the following agenda:

  • Democratic reform: Given the increased challenges to democracy within the region, the continuing success of Brazilian democracy must be of central concern to the United States.
  • Economic reform: The United States must build on the leadership role it took in sustaining economic reform in Brazil during the critical last five years.
  • Free trade: The new administration must quickly clarify its priorities with respect to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and Mercosul, where the cooperation of Brazil will be of crucial importance.
  • Drugs and regional security: There is a new urgency to work with Brazil in combating the drug scourge and its corrupting influence on governments, public sectors, and public safety throughout the hemisphere.
  • Managing mutual difficulties: The report candidly lays out the obstacles to a positive agenda on both sides and also stresses the fact that a new relationship with Brazil cannot be seen as an exclusive relationship.

In sum, the Task Force argues that both Brazil and the United States have much to gain from an enhanced relationship, and that now is the time to act.

The full report is available at Brazil Task Force. A list of Task Force members is attached.

INDEPENDENT TASK FORCE ON BRAZIL

Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations

CHAIR:

Stephen Robert, Chairman, Robert Capital Management, LLC; Chancellor of Brown University; former Chairman and CEO of Oppenheimer Group, Inc.

SIGNATORY TASK FORCE MEMBERS:

Diego C. Asencio, President, Diego Asencio & Associates; former U.S. Ambassador to Brazil

Mario L. Baeza, Chairman and CEO, TCW/Latin America Partners, LLC

Alain Belda, Chairman, President, and CEO, Alcoa Inc.

Nancy Birdsall, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; former Executive Vice President, Inter-American Development Bank

Christopher W. Brody, Chairman, Vantage Partners, LLC

Robert J. Chaves, Managing Partner, Key Emerging Markets Group

Eli Whitney Debevoise II, Senior Partner, Arnold & Porter (Arnold & Porter acts as legal counsel to Brazil on certain transactional and litigation matters)

Albert Fishlow, Senior Economist, Violy, Byorum & Partners, LLC

Gail D. Fosler, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, The Conference Board

Richard L. Huber, Senior Director, Kissinger McLarty Associates; former Chairman, President and CEO, Aetna Inc.

Oivind Lorentzen III, President, Northern Navigation America, Inc.

Thomas E. McNamara, President, Council of the Americas; former Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Brian D. O’Neill, Managing Director and Chairman, Latin America, J.P. Morgan & Company

Arturo C. Porzecanski, Managing Director and Head of Emerging Markets Economics & Debt Strategy, ABN AMRO Inc.

Riordan Roett, Director, Western Hemisphere Program, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University

John Thomas Ryan III, Chairman and CEO, Mine Safety Appliances Co.

James Baker Sitrick, Senior Partner, Coudert Brothers

Thomas E. Skidmore, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Professor of History, Brown University

Alfred C. Stepan, Wallace Sayre Professor of Government, Columbia University

J. Michael Turner, Professor of History, Hunter College-CUNY

STAFF:

Project Director:

Kenneth Maxwell, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Inter-American Affairs, and Director, Latin America Program, Council on Foreign Relations

Research Associate:

Tomás Amorim, Research Associate, Latin America Program, Council on Foreign Relations