Last year, in the wake of the National Security Agency scandal, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled her state visit to Washington. Now, after her reelection, some think there's a chance she may reschedule. Vice President Joe Biden has been a proponent of fixing the U.S.-Brazil relationship, meeting with Rousseff in Brazil in June and calling her after her election win in November, suggesting she reschedule her trip to DC. Now, she's set to meet with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 in Australia, the first time the two will meet after the spying scandal.
There are many reasons why the visit would be a good idea, and why it's ultimately in both countries' interest to repair ties. And there's of course the symbolic message the visit would send. But for Brazil's president especially, there are a few reasons that would benefit her during a time of political division and economic uncertainty.
Once Rousseff appoints a new finance minister, the U.S. private sector is going to be very interesting in seeing what he decides to do.
Brazil's economy has not been doing so hot recently, between sluggish growth and the largest monthly deficit on record in September. The president is expected to announce her new pick for finance minister any day now (reports said she was supposed to announce it before the G20), with the unpopular Guido Mantega on his way out. Financial markets and multinationals will be anxious to hear from the new pick, and if Rousseff makes the announcement soon, the new minister could also use the trip to talk to foreign investors.
Both countries are experiencing historic droughts that could use innovative solutions.
California and São Paulo--the most populous states and top GDP earners in each country--are experiencing historic droughts. Even though state authorities are working to address the issue in both countries, the water shortage has become a national issue in both cases. Even just talking about ways Brazil and the United States could collaborate on addressing droughts--and global warming, too--would be refreshing to see (no pun intended).
One way to mend fences in the wake of the NSA scandal is to work together on creating a more open internet.
Earlier this year, Brazil passed landmark legislation to guarantee net neutrality. Obama favors net neutrality, and this month threw his support behind it. Plus, Obama could discuss new ways to collaborate on bilateral internet initiatives, especially in light of the new internet cable Brazil is building to Portugal without a single U.S. company involved.
Talking about Science Without Borders is a win-win.
This program, which awards scholarships to Brazilian students to study abroad, was launched by the president in 2011. It's a popular program that has seen fewer controversies than other government programs like More Doctors or Bolsa Familia. In Brazil, it's the type of program that appeals to both the PT base and the upper middle class who could otherwise afford to study abroad but are happy to take the government's money.
The United States is by far the top destination for Science without Borders students. Over the past three years, nearly 22,000 scholarships have been awarded to Brazilians to study in the U.S., compared to less than 9,000 in the UK and about 6,500 in France. Increasing student exchanges has been a popular topic for bilateral U.S.-Brazil talks and it's a politically safe area for Rousseff. Plus, the United States is always looking for more international students, and Brazil has yet to crack the top 10 countries who sends college students to the U.S.
The Workers' Party should recognize that the United States is a voter and constituent base.
Over a million Brazilians live in the United States, making it the home to the largest Brazilian expat community in the world. Around 112,000 Brazilians living in the U.S. were eligible to vote in the 2014 election. However, no presidential candidate campaigned abroad.
During the October vote, Aécio Neves won overwhelmingly among U.S.-based voters. In the second round, he won with 77 percent of the overall expat vote. But turnout was low; if implemented, alternate voting methods would allow those living far from polling stations to vote. Plus, if the government campaigned more among residents to change their voter registration, the number of eligible voters would likely rise.
Neves' win amid high abstention shouldn't be discouraging for the next election, but should rather be seen as an opportunity to galvanize voters. The entire expat voter base--which encompasses over 354,000 people worldwide--has been long neglected by presidential candidates and political leaders.
Image: Rousseff and Obama in Brasilia in 2011.