Brazil is our natural ally

As two of the world’s largest democracies and economies, Brazil and the United States share values, goals, and strategic objectives across a range of issues. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s White House meeting next week is an especially poignant sign of Brazil’s impressive economic development, as well as its evolving role as a regional leader and a global power.

Bilateral cooperation was deepened by President Obama’s visit to Brazil this time last year, and President Rousseff’s visit, coming just before the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, is an excellent opportunity to solidify our bilateral relationship while shaping a cooperative hemispheric framework to achieve prosperity and security.

A key area of engagement between our two countries is economic cooperation. The United States no longer is Brazil’s largest trading partner — having fallen behind China — reinforcing the need for improved trade ties and greater U.S. investment in Brazil, particularly in the high-tech fields where China cannot compete. A strategic energy dialogue that focuses on clean and conventional energies, including biofuels, is another area for collaboration, especially investments in green building, intelligent transportation and sustainable infrastructure.

Obama and Rousseff will also join forces on a key priority for both leaders — educating the workforce of the 21st century. Rousseff’s signature Science without Borders Initiative for Brazilian students is a natural complement to Obama’s 100,000 Strong for the Americas initiative, which seeks to foster region-wide prosperity through greater international exchange of students. Last January, Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey, was one of the first schools to welcome the Brazilian science students.

As the United States seeks resilient security partnerships, Brazil is a natural ally in the region. American and Brazilian soldiers have worked together in Haiti, where Brazil commands the U.N. Stabilization Mission, and the two countries signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement in 2010 to promote joint research and development, technology security and defense acquisition. Hopefully the presidents will work together to build an even stronger and interconnected security relationship.

Brazil is already a political force on the global stage, as we saw last week in the New Delhi meeting of the BRICS countries. In other areas, Rousseff’s refutation of her predecessor’s warm ties to Iran is a positive international development. But regionally, I encourage her to be more helpful with the Cuban dictatorship, since she herself has experienced the terrible price to be paid for living under a regime that has no respect for human rights.

We look forward to welcoming President Rousseff and continuing to work with her administration and Brazil’s dynamic private sector to embrace and expand our broad agenda. The serious national budget constraints facing both presidents compel them to find common ground to foster long-term and more-effective policies for the future.

In short, it is time for Americans to recognize that Brazil has joined our political, economic and strategic conversations, and that both countries — and the entire region — will benefit from a solid U.S.-Brazil relationship.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is chairman of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Global Narcotics Affairs.

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