The Realist Prism: Obama Must Turn Words Into Action With Brazil

The Realist Prism: Obama Must Turn Words Into Action With Brazil

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff issued a blunt challenge to President Barack Obama when he arrived in Brazil to kick off his first visit to Latin America this past week: no more "empty rhetoric" about partnership between her country and the United States. Whether Washington can meet this standard, however, remains to be seen. Certainly, during this visit, no major initiatives were unveiled; no dramatic vision of a future U.S.-Brazilian entente was presented; and no grand gesture -- such as a compromise on the thorny trade issues that continue to hamper commercial ties between the two countries -- was magnanimously offered by Obama as a sign of American goodwill.

The Obama administration's defenders can point, with some justification, to the unfolding Libyan crisis as sufficient cause for the president's distracted focus. But Obama's foreign policy team has had more than two years to prepare for this first visit. And even before the trip started, there were indications that it would be a repeat of Obama's "salesman-in-chief" tour of South Asia last year. Indeed, the White House Web site described the purpose of the president's visit as "promoting American exports."

But Obama spoke largely in generalities during his time in Brazil. Announcing that Petrobras has been cleared to drill in the Gulf of Mexico and that the Export-Import Bank is extending a $3 billion credit for Brazilians to purchase more U.S. goods and services, and pledging to increase security cooperation and promoting "green energy" for the Olympics and the World Cup are all important projects, to be sure. But they don't add up to a compelling vision of a transformative relationship between the Western Hemisphere's two largest democracies and its two largest economies.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.