The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

US-Brazil relations: Opening a new chapter 

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva waits for the arrival of the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at the Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

For the U.S. business community, there is no doubt that Brazil is an opportunity not to be lost. A global economic slowdown and geopolitical tensions are changing how and where people around the globe get their food, energy, and other necessities, and Brazil and the U.S. are well positioned to work together to make an impactful difference. As President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will visit Washington this week, Washington must extend a hand and propose bolder goals for our economic partnership. Despite the anti-democratic attacks in Brasilia, Brazil remains a solid democracy. 

We should do so from a position of strength. Bilateral trade rose by more than 25 percent last year to nearly $100 billion. The 2020 Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation provides a framework for trade talks and the chance for continued momentum.  

But we can’t expect that to happen without decisive action and partnership between the Brazilian and U.S. governments — in consultation with the private sector. We are not alone in recognizing the opportunities in Brazil. Other countries are moving quickly to capitalize on Brazil’s transition and forge closer ties. The European Union (EU) has already asked President Lula to update the sustainability commitments of the recently concluded EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement to improve its prospects for approval by the European Parliament.  

For our part, the U.S. private sector urges the Biden and Lula administrations to embrace a forward-leaning, strategic agenda for the two economic giants of the Western Hemisphere. The Brazil-U.S. Business Council offers the following recommendations:  

Partner to advance the energy transition: Lula ran for the presidency with a robust environmental platform, and his first post-election foreign trip was to attend COP27 in Egypt. There, he reassured the world of Brazil’s environmental responsibility, including its commitment to curbing deforestation of the Amazon, where he also offered to host COP30.  

Further, Brazil is poised to ramp up the production of clean energy from solar and wind to hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel. However, regulations are not yet in place or under discussion in Brazil’s Congress. The U.S. has a great deal to offer with exchanges on policy ideas, regulatory frameworks, environmental licensing, and innovative financing schemes for the deployment of technology and financing. These have consistently been priority issues to forge innovative solutions. U.S. companies could be very helpful partners for Brazil’s efforts at the forefront of this new energy frontier.  

In August 2022, a U.S.-Brazil Clean Energy Industry Dialogue was launched with the avid participation of the private sector. A new Brazilian administration offers the opportunity to re-energize the partnership with ambitious goals for each of these areas of clean energy.  

Brazil will assume the leadership of the G20 a year from now, and the government has always placed a premium on leveraging international fora to address global issues. Brazil and the U.S. can work together for the reforms of the multilateral institutions to adapt to the current realities and find innovative ways to de-risk investments for the energy transition in emerging markets.  

Cooperate to secure critical minerals: In another area critical to meeting climate goals, energy needs, and manufacturing demands, global mining firms will have to raise production of critical minerals by 500 percent in the next decade to provide the inputs needed for the energy transition.  

In this context, Brazil’s impressive production and reserves of these metals and minerals make it a sought-after partner. The South American giant is virtually tied with Vietnam for the second largest reserves of rare earths in the world (after China). Brazil leads the world in production of niobium, which is vital in the production of high-strength steel, and is the source of half of U.S. alumina imports. It is also a top source of silicon, used in the manufacture of solar cells, semiconductors, and other tech products. Both governments, along with the private sector, should quickly move forward to materialize this potential.  

Join forces to make the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity a success: Since its launch in June 2022 by U.S. President Joe Biden at the CEO Summit of the Americas, the Chamber has supported the U.S. administration in the definition and implementation of the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP). The five pillars therein are shared priorities for much of the region, but this hemispheric strategy won’t be complete without inclusion and prioritization of Latin America’s largest economy.  

To shape the next steps of APEP, the Biden administration should collaborate with Brazil to influence open, market-based economic policies and trends that generate jobs and prosperity across the region.  

The region has drifted away from the rule of law and the sanctity of contracts, but U.S. leadership and partnership would help restore confidence in the Americas. 

Support Brazil’s structural transformation: Brazil has made strides in recent years toward fiscal responsibility and sound monetary policy. The pursuit of OECD membership has provided an incentive to continue this progress, and the goal is within sight. 

The Lula administration will face a hefty structural reform agenda, including tax simplification, market opening, administrative efficiency, and strengthening of the rule of law. Executing these reforms would increase investors’ confidence and boost economic growth. The U.S. should stand ready to support Brazil on this path of transformation, including in multilateral fora such as the OECD and WTO.  

This Brazil-U.S. partnership is an obvious one: We are two continental economies, with diverse populations and a commitment to democracy and inclusive economic growth. Even beyond the immediate imperatives of food and fuel, the world needs what we have to offer. It’s time to realize the potential of our partnership. 

Myron Brilliant is executive vice president and head of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Cassia Carvalho is executive director of the Brazil-U.S. Business Council.

Tags Joe Biden Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva u.s.-brazil relations

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Congress Blog News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video