Global Governance | Readout and Recommendations

The Roles of Brazil and the US for the 21st-Century International Agenda

December 2010


On November 21-22, 2010, the Centro Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais (CEBRI) and the Stanley Center brought together prominent experts from the US and Brazilian foreign policy communities to discuss their two countries’ roles as global leaders. Both nations are wrestling with how they should adjust their strategic aims, diplomatic tactics, and governmental capacities amid rapid international change, and our discussion clarified key considerations each government will weigh. The increased clout of rising powers such as Brazil coincides with a multilateral agenda of formidable challenges: nonproliferation, the global economic downturn, climate change, and counterterrorism, to name just a few. The world community is thus struggling both to recalibrate international politics and overcome policy differences.

Conference participants from the two countries emphasized the solid foundation for affinity and cooperation between the United States and Brazil. Not only do they share a long-term interest in a rules-based liberal international order, both have heterogeneous populations and democratic governance. Yet key differences in the US and Brazilian approaches were noted. In simplest terms, the United States is a global power and has an extensive global agenda to go with it.

By contrast, Brazil is hesitant in playing a major global role because of its priorities as a regional leader. And while the two nations share broad agreement on the contours of the 21st-century international order, differences in their respective status within the post-World War II order naturally lead to differences over modifications to the system, now that it is undergoing reexamination.