Bolsonaro and Trump Mark a New Chapter in Brazilian-American Relations

Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump met today at the White House to discuss trade, tourism, space exploration, NATO, and Venezuela.

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Trump and Bolsonaro have pledged to greatly strengthen the relationship between Brazil and the US (PBS).

One of the most stunning things about Jair Bolsonaro’s improbable rise to the presidency last year was his campaign trail adoration of Donald Trump: he didn’t merely comment on his favorable impression of the brash billionaire…he shouted it from the rooftops. Today, Trump and Bolsonaro met at the White House in the first official state visit between the two nations.

The Apprentice Meets the Master

The mainstream media often depicted it as “the apprentice visiting the master” insinuating that Bolsonaro’s penchant for outrageous statements was a learned ability: Bolsonaro, rising from obscure Rio de Janeiro federal deputy to president…enthralled and under the spell of Donald Trump’s tutelage.

Both presidents clearly reveled in the spectacle, and Bolsonaro quickly took to Twitter, to express his delight at the visit: “For the first time in a while, a pro-America Brazilian president arrives in DC…It’s the beginning of a partnership focused on liberty and prosperity, something that all of us Brazilians have long wished for.”

Brazil in NATO?

Big news emerged fast. Trump, coming completely out of left field, announced his intention to propose Brazil’s inclusion in NATO, as a “major non-NATO ally”…but then went even further, suggesting that he might even push for Brazil’s inclusion as a full NATO member. However, the terms of the 1949 NATO charter restrict membership to European nations.

The governments signed an agreement allowing the United States to use space exploration facilities on Brazilian territory.

Americans Can Now Go to Brazil Visa Free

A big part of the Bolsonaro government’s economic focus includes prioritizing tourism, particularly from the US and allies. First, the government reduced the visa fee from USD $160 to USD $40, and made the fee payable online. Now, the Bolsonaro government has announced plans to phase out the tourist visa entirely for citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan. The measure will take effect on June 17, 2019, and is likely to boost American interest in Brazilian tourism. Before, the process was expensive, time-consuming, and arduous. Now American citizens can head to Brazil with just a passport in hand.

As Brazil’s tourism minister recently stated, “The left has treated the United States as an adversary, but not our government. President Bolsonaro wants to embrace the United States as a partner of Brazil.”

Bilateral Trade Boost

Trade played a major role in today’s discussions as well, with calls to open American markets to Brazilian beef once again, while Trump called for greater access to Brazilian markets for American wheat and pork. Paulo Guedes, Bolsonaro’s top economic adviser, has encouraged the US to open up its markets to more Brazilian products. Currently, China engages in a greater volume of trade with Brazil than does the United States, although Bolsonaro took a noticably anti-China tone on the campaign trail.

Getting Tougher on Maduro

Both leaders share an intense loathing for Venezuela’s socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro, but Bolsonaro stopped short of endorsing military action, or allowing the use of Brazilian territory as staging ground for any military invasion. Latin American leaders have generally dismissed such talk, while Trump has been very clear that all options remain on the table.

Brazil has been inundated with refugees from southern and eastern Venezuela over the course of the past three years, with many arriving in the northern state of Roraima and reaching the Amazonian metropolis of Manaus. However, Brazil and Venezuela have mutual interests in the region with regard to hydroelectric power.

Bolsonaro and Trump discussed the possibility of further sanctions, with Trump suggesting that much harsher measures could be in store, and Bolsonaro pledging to back up Trump in that effort.

“So for as much as it is possible for us to do together to sort out the issue of the Venezuelan dictatorship, Brazil will be more than willing and ready to fulfill this mission and take freedom and democracy to that country, which up until recently was one of the wealthiest countries in South America,” said the Brazilian leader.

Brazil has lived through a political seachange. Lula, Dilma and the Workers Party focused on cultivating ties with China and the region’s leftists and socialist governments. Bolsonaro is clearly gravitating more towards the United States and Europe.

And regardless of investors’ personal perspectives on Bolsonaro, one thing is clear: Brazil is open for business again in a big way, and its stock markets are roaring.

 

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