Brazil Seeks New Balance in US Relations

06/09/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Advertising posters on the sides of Manhattan bus shelters are part of a new campaign to help Americans understand Brazil. And with a new defense agreement and regional issues taking on greater importance Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Journalism Wednesday hosted Brazil Corporate Communications Day. These events couldn't have come at a better time.

Over the past year China replaced the United States as Brazil's top trade partner, the World Trade Organization awarded Brazil the right to impose up to $830 million in sanctions in a cotton subsidies dispute and Hillary Clinton's State Department launched a public diplomacy campaign critical of president Lula's foreign policy. Against this backdrop, the Pentagon has characterized the new military to-military pact as being "aspirational."

Brazil, by opting for negotiations rather than maxing out sanctions against a key ally, has projected a balanced, non-confrontational style for government and business to deal with foreign counterparts.

While details remain sketchy, the new defense pact is the first between the two nations since the 1970s and does not currently provide for US bases on Brazilian soil like Washington's deal with Colombia does. Considering Brazil's candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the arrangement has more to do with shoring up military and security between the hemisphere's two major democracies than with the commercial deals that free marketeers implore.

Brazil, where the state, not globalist business interests, remains the final arbiter of what's fair in laissez-faire, is a net creditor nation and plans to stay that way. But with Washington deep in debt spending $7 billion monthly in Iraq and another $5 billion on Obama's Af-Pak war, the military arrangements are a reminder of the high price sovereign nations pay to support globalism.

Because tight credit markets increase the risk of political instability the value of paper money is now being backed up by strong armies more than strong markets. As a result, the quality of the US brand of democracy as advertised to the world has become more difficult to control and more costly to finance.

In a world without borders Brazil is right next door. But shaping business issues is complicated because, wittingly or unwittingly, globalist media continue to link perceptions about Brazil and its BRIC partners with the pathology of underdevelopment. Promoting economic warfare instead of economic partnerships, some media interests tag Brazil with poor infrastructure and corruption, which promotes reasonable doubt in the minds of analysts and prospective investors.

This, in turn, has spun off a culture of complaint among managers, bureaucrats and commentators who spend considerable time focused on what's wrong with Brazil and what's right with the American model of free markets and less government regulation that has been in vogue since the "Reagan revolution" of the 1980s.

After all, these same traits, acted out by US business and political leadership triggered the crisis. In reciprocity, president Lula and others in Brazil have not been shy about going on the record to say that.

One Brazilian success story can be found in the "where's the beef" department. No matter loud your 24 ounce t-bone fans yell out "don't mess with Texas", Brazil has become the world's largest exporter of beef. Instead of taking Angus feeders to fats like they do in Dalhart, Brazil raises leaner Brahma cattle on open grass ranges. The Brahma breed also helps promote sustainability because it consumes less water than other breeds.

Becoming a key player in the global food chain required long term cooperation between the state, which, constitutionally, maintains the overarching superstructure of social organization, and business, to build infrastructure, develop technology, and invest in human capital.

The United States, meanwhile, under Reagan, the Bush family and now Obama, seems to be abdicating that role. The US social contract is shrinking due to the deemphasis of checks and balances and globalist influencers inside government.

Brazil's model, often the brunt of critiques from US neoconservatives that the new Brazilian media initiatives seek to overcome, has more in common with the traditional liberal economic principles of Raymond Aron, the French philosopher. Aron emphasized that the health and identity of the nation-state requires a strong central government.

Brazilian citizens maintain a sense of national identity and direct connection with government because in Brazil's construct of democracy the constitution makes voting mandatory. So while the United States, where in theory everybody is entitled to vote but nobody is required by law to do so, was reeling from hanging chads in Florida and voting machines with no paper trails, Brazil rapidly developed technology to make voting machines more transparent. ProComp, the Brazilian company that developed the improvements, was subsequently acquired by the US voting machine manufacturer, Diebold.

With 200 million citizens spread across 5 million square miles, Brazil is spending $1.4 billion on its 2010 census. About 250,000 census takers are using laptops and PDAs to gather the data according to IBGE, Brazil's statistical agency. The US, meanwhile, is spending $14 billion and creating jobs for 4 million people and relying mostly on paper to grab the data.

If globalism is indeed the multipolar world the Davos crowd claim it is, then it's time for those whose unbridled greed propagated the current economic malaise to stop characterizing Brazil and other BRIC nations as less than and start acknowledging them as being equal to some other key G-20 players who are still spinning from the effects of the crisis.

Two big countries. Two big cultures. One big new opportunity to move forward. Perhaps Brazil's Cardinal Dom Helder Camara summed up the differences best... "When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."