In This Review

Global Brazil and U. S.- Brazil Relations
Global Brazil and U. S.- Brazil Relations
By Samuel W. Bodman,James D. Wolfensohn,Julia E. Sweig
Council on Foreign Relations Press, 2011, 128 pp.
Starting Over: Brazil Since 1985 (A Brookings Latin America Initiative)
Starting Over: Brazil Since 1985 (A Brookings Latin America Initiative)
By Albert Fishlow
Brookings Institution Press, 2011, 237 pp.

 

The Council on Foreign Relations’ intelligently crafted new report on U.S.-Brazilian ties provides an excellent survey of the many economic, social, and diplomatic issues that crowd the bilateral agenda. Brazilian diplomats will be especially pleased, as the report strives to present the Brazilian perspective, suggesting that if only the United States were more attentive and respectful, relations would soar. Others have argued that U.S. diplomats have, in fact, repeatedly sought to engage Brazil, only to be rebuffed by a foreign ministry that harbors an essentially competitive view of the relationship. The report does gently chastise Brazil for its trade protectionism and its soft-pedaling on international human rights. But it generally assumes that U.S. and Brazilian interests overlap and urges the United States to welcome and even promote Brazil’s rise. 

Fishlow’s Starting Over expertly chronicles Brazil’s comprehensive transformation: the democratic consolidation after the end of military rule in the 1980s, the achievement of economic growth and political stability, the significant social advances, and the nation’s growing international influence. During the past three decades, Brazil has been blessed with superior presidential and technocratic leadership, high commodity prices, and good economic policies, including effective antipoverty programs benefiting some 45 million Brazilians. Still, Fishlow, a foremost analyst of Brazil for more than 40 years, recognizes the many challenges that remain, including raising national savings, tightening fiscal spending, and building a better-educated work force. Rather more so than the Council on Foreign Relations study, Fishlow is skeptical of Brazil’s diplomatic activities in the developing world, questioning, for example, whether its “rhetoric still exceeds concrete gains.” The country’s foreign ministry, he advises, should reconsider its priorities and focus more on strengthening relations with Washington.