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Remarks: U.S. Amb. to Brazil Clifford Sobel at AS/COA's São Paulo Conference

June 09, 2009

Remarks by the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobel
at the AS/COA Latin American Cities Conference held
in São Paulo, Brazil, on June 6, 2009.

The Future of the U.S.-Brazilian Partnership: A Call for Global Partnership

Today, I am very pleased to be here to speak with you about the importance of U.S. partnership with Brazil, especially in this era of momentous change on the global stage.I would like to speak briefly about the special position that Brazil has as an emerging global leader–especially given your roots as a democratic nation and a market economy. And I would like to discuss the coalitions that Brazil and the United States can form on common interests, looking at what unites us, and not what divides us.

Importance of the Bilateral Relationship

As a member of the BRIC nations, Brazil has had a profound impact on our world as a new leader in an era of globalization. You are helping to shift the center of gravity. As U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, I must emphasize that our partnership with Brazil is one of our most important bilateral relationships, based on shared values, shared interests, shared challenges. The United States recognizes that on many issues, Brazil has to be a part of the solution, for example, climate change, energy innovation, food security, and regional stability.

What We Have Accomplished

This bilateral relationship is already intensifying as Brazil’s economic stability, and its global reach and engagement grow. And the similarities between our countries make us natural partners. Consider for a moment all that our countries, as partners, have accomplished together:

  • Biofuels Agreement
  • CEO Forum
  • New air routes/Open Skies
  • Bilateral Military Working Group: closer engagement on Haiti and other military to military priorities
  • Projeto Pontes
  • Trip to Northeast/Hospitality
  • Enter Jovem
  • Energy and food security
  • New people: Health Attaché/FAA/RLA/USTDA

These are but a few examples of what Brazil and the United States have been able to do to strengthen our partnership. Imagine what the future can hold!

New Vision

Looking to the future: The United States is ready to lead by example. The Obama Administration has laid out an ever bolder vision of U.S. relations with Brazil, one that deepens our partnership on the global stage. President Obama has brought a fresh voice, and a new approach to U.S. relations in the Americas and worldwide. Some Brazilian journalists have taken to referring to “the Obama Doctrine”–that the U.S. is ready to listen, open to learning from other nations, and ready to lead by example.

This new approach was introduced at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad in April, and one may say manifested in the surprising consensus member nations found regarding revoking Cuba’s expulsion from the OAS. The resolution was an act of statesmanship. Our nations addressed and bridged an historic divide in the Americas, while reaffirming our profound commitment to democracy and the fundamental human rights of our peoples. We removed an historical impediment to Cuba’s participation in the OAS, but we also established a process of engagement with Cuba based on the core practices, principles, and purposes of the OAS and the Inter-American system. This was not an easy process, but the decision was historic. And our collaboration strengthens the OAS as an institution.

Working together our nations can make history!

Just remember, after World War II, the United States and its allies built a new world order. Today, it is up to the emerging global powers such as Brazil, and the developed world, to do it once again! Brazil could have a profound impact on our world as a new leader in the era of globalization. You are shifting the center of gravity.

The United States recognizes our shared responsibility for common problems, and we are looking for partners who demonstrate the political will to meet these challenges head on. Looking at the U.S.-Brazil partnership,  it is clear our nations have shared priorities.  We recognize the importance of:

  • Solving the global economic crisis and preventing future ones; Promoting prosperity and social inclusion in our diverse nations;
  • Dealing with climate change through environmental protection, innovation and green energy development;
  • Strengthening the safety of our communities by cooperating in the fight against violence, drugs, and organized crime.

As President Obama said following his March meeting with President Lula at the White House, the two Presidents “had a wonderful meeting of the minds.” Both presidents recognize that more developed nations such as the United States must work together in partnership with BRIC nations to address the key issues of our time—the global economic crisis, poverty, despair, and the 30 percent of the population that we have left behind.

This was the first topic that Presidents Obama and Lula discussed at the White House in March! We will get through this economic crisis, and our interconnected economies will pave the way for cooperation in many areas, not just in bilateral relations.  But in getting the benefits of globalization to all of the citizens of the world. Together, our leaders need to be wise enough to make the hard decisions to deal with the different issues that confront us all. For today, no country, no region, has the resources or intellectual capital to deal with all of these challenges.

Forecasting the Partnership: What Would Brazil Like?

With Brazil: We are natural partners – parcerias naturais.  And Brazil is an island of stability. Our leaders have nurtured an increasingly close relationship between our governments, our business, and our people.  As a result, I believe there is huge potential for growth in any endeavor we can think of. In its report, A Second Chance: U.S. Policy in the Americas,  the Inter-American Dialogue identified ten priority challenges for the U.S. in the Americas. The 7th involved building a closer relationship with Brazil.  I quote: “Neither Brazil nor the United States is yet ready to develop a broad longterm partnership.  They are not willing to make the concessions or accept the substantial compromises needed to build a more strategic relationship.”
With all due respect, with regard to the United States, I have to disagree with the Inter-American Dialogue. I think this Administration is already working on a longer-term strategic partnership with Brazil that goes beyond an ad hoc set of issues. And I think the indications are clear, too, that the Obama Administration is ready to make compromises and concessions, where necessary, to make such a partnership happen.

As Eduardo Campos said, Brazil is not looking for charity, but for partnership. But… it takes two to make a partnership. Call it what you will, strategic, or otherwise; the question before Brazil today is, what kind of partnership does it want? A pragmatic, fluid, broad-based partnership, based on shared interests and common strategic goals? Or something more cautious, less reliable, more subject to external pressure?

Global leadership today requires engaged and continuing political and diplomatic partnership between developed and developing countries in times of crisis and in times of calm. Global leadership entails making hard diplomatic decisions, not only the popular ones. It is up to Brazil to determine what kind of regional partnership it will seek, but the United States hopes it will not be exclusionary.  

And Brazil, perhaps more than any country in Latin America, benefits from globalization. It is up to both our countries not to engage in protectionism. The United States is not looking backwards. This is a time for new vision, new opportunities, and new partnership. That is what President Obama brings as President. Certainly we have an exciting opportunity.  We recall at the G-20, how President Obama smiled when he saw President Lula, and exclaimed, “I love this guy!”

Everything I have seen as Ambassador in nearly three years leads me to believe that the potential of this partnership to create a new, positive-sum game is enormous. The barriers to constructing this partnership are low.  With so much in common, it’s really a question of interest and will. I have seen equal desire throughout my time in Brazil on the part of government ministers, members of congress, state governors and mayors, educators, scientists, students, business people, and civic activists. Of course, there are still some who think of the past and not to the future. It is my hope that in the months and years to come, Brazil will continue its outreach to the United States.  

I hope as Brazil develops its strategic interests, that it will include the United States amongst its first and foremost partners. It is my hope that our governments can harness the renewed energy and enthusiasm of the last few months to create a broader and deeper partnership and yes, perhaps even a strategic one. Our nations have so much in common.  We are rich not only in commodities, but in our people.

In 1820, Thomas Jefferson remarked that Brazil and the United States are “brethren of the same family pursuing the same objective.” As I said during the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce annual dinner for Person of the Year:

  • Brazil and the United States of America are so alike.  
  • We are nations “indivisible” but nations of immigrants
  • We are citizens of the New World
  • Innovators and entrepreneurs who share a common vision for the future

It makes me feel proud to stand with those who built and continue to build the bridges of friendship, and the foundations for partnership, between our two nations.


In conclusion, the United States stands with Brazil as partners on the world stage. We can accomplish great things together–bi-laterally and multi-laterally–when we act together, as governments and as people. As Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs Thomas Shannon said recently:  “This is a relationship to which both countries need to pay close attention. This relationship will really define what happens in South America and elsewhere in the world.”

Tom Shannon has been a great Assistant Secretary, and I am sure he will make a great Ambassador and  be a leader in working with Brazil to deepen our bilateral partnership. What I ask from Brazil today is: continue to be our partner. Not only our bilateral partner, but our partner in multilateral relationships, our partner worldwide. Together, we have so much room for growth and for success that we ought to be more ambitious about what our countries can do together.

We don’t know what the particular areas for future cooperation between our countries will be. But we know that the future of Brazil is today, and our futures and our prosperity are inter-dependent. This is a great time for Brazil and the United States, with limitless oportunidades. t is up to all of us, governments, the private sector, and our private citizens, to build the bridges, create the partnerships, and seize the moment.