Rousseff aims to improve US-Brazil ties | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 09.04.2012
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Rousseff aims to improve US-Brazil ties

Brazil's Dilma Rousseff is on her first trip to the United States since taking office. The US remains a crucial market - and Brazil's huge oil reserves may well be vital for Washington's future energy needs.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's trip to Washingotn on Monday is her first visit to the US since taking office. She's expected to stear clear of controversial issues though - neither the reform of the UN Security Council nor US agriculture subsidies are on the agenda. According to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, the two leaders will focus on education, technology and energy.

Rousseff sees herself as a practical politician looking for opportunities for her country's economy. It's something that sets her her apart from her predecessor, Lula da Silva, who took a more critical stance toward the US. Yet Rousseff has clear goals, says Rafael Duarte Villa, a foreign policy expert at Sao Paolo University.

"The US government should acknowledge Brazil as a strategic partner," he told DW. "So far the US only accepts China and India as partners from the emerging economies."

Stepping up cooperation

Off-shore oil plattform

Brazil's huge off-shore oil reserves could be vital for Washington

Brazil today is richer and less dependant on the North American market than in the past. The country no longer needs financial aid, neither from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) nor from the US. But one thing has not changed: Brazil is still unable to propel its own technological progress without help.

There have been several instances of successful partnerships in the past, says Eiiti Sato of Brasilia University, pointing to cooperation between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cornell University and the Brazilian air force during the 1970s, which formed the basis for Brazil's aviation industry. Similar partnerships are what Brazil needs in other areas, like biotechnology, Sato argues.

There should also be more military cooperation, says Marcus Vinicius de Freitas, a law professor at the Armando Alvares Penteado Foundation. Although it may be a sensitive issue, "military cooperation is essential to protect natural resources - particularly when it comes to Brazil's huge off-shore oil reserves." Brazil's military is in dire need of modernization, he warns.

Oil for the US

Until 2009, the US was Brazil's main trading partner. Now, it is China. But the US remains an important market for Brazilian products. And the country's enormous oil reserves could also be the answer to Washington's thirst for energy.

"Brazil wants to become a reliable oil supplier to the US. Washington has had problems with supplies from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela againand again," Freitas says. Brazil also could supply the US with ethanol, though currently the country is still struggling to satisfy domestic demand for it.

Harvard University

Brazil hopes to have its future elite educated at universities like Harvard

Education is key

Another issue the two leaders are expected to discuss is education - Rousseff sees it as a key factor for Brazil's future prosperity.

By 2015, some 100,000 students are to be sent abroad on scholarships so that at a later date they can meet the country's need for highly qualified specialists. Many of the top universities they'll be sent to are in the US. Rousseff is also scheduled to meet with US academics and visit Harvard University.

Rousseff's practical approach is seen to be a chance for better future cooperation with the US. "There's hope that the dialogue between the two countries will enter a new phase, a phase in which both sides put past differences aside and show more understanding for each other's needs and expectations," says Eiiti Sato.

Author: Nadia Pontes /ai
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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