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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Brazil-U.S. Relations

Peter J. Meyer
Analyst in Latin American Affairs

As its economy has grown to be the 10th largest in the world, Brazil has consolidated its power in South America, extended its influence to the broader region, and become increasingly prominent on the world stage. The Obama Administration’s national security strategy regards Brazil as an emerging center of influence, whose leadership it welcomes “to pursue progress on bilateral, hemispheric, and global issues.” In recent years, U.S.-Brazil relations have generally been positive despite Brazil’s prioritization of strengthening relations with neighboring countries and expanding ties with nontraditional partners in the “developing South.” Although some disagreements have emerged over the past two years—such as different policy approaches toward the situations in Honduras and Iran—Brazil and the United States continue to work together on a number of issues, including counternarcotics, counterterrorism, energy security, trade, human rights, HIV/AIDS, and the environment.

Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, of the center-left Workers’ Party (PT) has served as Brazil’s president since 2003. During his two terms, President Lula has largely maintained orthodox economic policies while expanding the Brazilian state’s role in development. Although occasional corruption scandals and inter-party rivalries within his governing coalition have made it difficult to advance portions of his agenda, President Lula has been successful in passing some social security and tax reforms, implementing and expanding a number of social welfare programs, and encouraging public-private partnerships to invest in infrastructure and boost economic growth. He is currently seeking legislative approval for a new regulatory framework to govern the development of the country’s substantial offshore oil reserves, but portions of the new framework have been deferred by Congress until after the October 3, 2010 presidential and legislative elections. Lula has maintained high approval ratings (78% in late August 2010) throughout his administration as Brazil has experienced strong economic growth and considerable reductions in poverty.

Brazil’s recent economic success and Lula’s popularity have benefitted his designated successor, Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party. According to recent polls, Rousseff leads José Serra of the centrist Brazilian Social Democratic Party by a substantial margin. While analysts believe that both candidates would largely maintain the Lula Administration’s economic and social welfare policies, most believe that Serra’s foreign policy would be more likely to align with that of the United States.

The 111
th Congress has demonstrated interest in several issues in U.S.-Brazil relations. Both houses passed resolutions concerning an international child custody case involving Brazil (H.Res. 125 and S.Res. 37), and legislation related to the case (H.R. 2702) was introduced in the House. Other pieces of legislation concerning Brazil include S.Res. 74, to recognize the importance of the U.S.-Brazil partnership and pursue a bilateral tax treaty; S. 587, to provide $6 million to expand U.S.-Brazil biofuels cooperation; and H.R. 5439, to offset U.S. contributions to a fund for Brazilian cotton farmers, which was agreed to as a result of a World Trade Organization dispute, by reducing subsidy payments for U.S. cotton farmers.

This report analyzes Brazil’s political, economic, and social conditions, and how those conditions affect its role in the region and its relationship with the United States.

Date of Report: September 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: RL33456
Price: $29.95

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