Competing in Brazil

How Not to Make Friends and Influence People

By Kenneth Maxwell

Professor Maxwell recently retired from Harvard University after a distinguished career as a leading expert on Brazil and Latin American Affairs. Kenneth Maxwell is a historian, an expert in Portuguese and Brazilian History and has taught at and been involved for many years with Harvard University, Yale, Columbia, Princeton and writes a weekly column for Brazil’s popular Folha newspaper. Dr. Maxwell currently lives in Devon, England.

 

Hanging by a thread : U.S. military exports to Brazil
Photo credit: Brazilian Navy Full Deploy

 

 

11/9/2011 – The Brazilian government and the Brazilian Air Force are considering the purchase of a new generation of jet fighters.  The competitors are the U.S. with the Boeing the F-18, France with the Rafale, and Sweden with Saab’s Gripen aircraft. These purchases are part of a major commitment by Brazil to upgrade its armed Forces, which also involve the Brazilian Navy’s effort to build five submarines including a nuclear submarine, and to add substantially to its surface craft capabilities.

The Brazilian government and the Brazilian Air Force are considering the purchase of a new generation of jet fighters.  (…) These purchases are part of a major commitment by Brazil to upgrade its armed Forces, which also involve the Brazilian Navy’s effort to build five submarines including a nuclear submarine, and to add substantially to its surface craft capabilities. (…)  its military interest in upgrading its armed forces is driven by the development of major off shore petroleum production platforms, which could make Brazil one of the world’s major petroleum producers and exporters by the end of the decade.

These ambitious efforts are driven by several factors.

  • Brazil’s successful consolidation of democracy.
  • Its powerful mix of market and state enterprises.
  • As well as the impressive expansion of its middle class.

But above all its military interest in upgrading its armed forces is driven by the development of major off shore petroleum production platforms, which could make Brazil one of the world’s major petroleum producers and exporters by the end of the decade. Brazil also needs to provide adequate security on its vast inland frontiers, which touch every county in South America, with the exception of Chile and Ecuador.

The decision on the fighters will be made by Brazil next year. Boeing in September employed the former US ambassador in Brasilia, Donna Hrinak, as president of Boeing Brazil, their principal Brazilian lobbyist. She is very well connected and highly regarded in Brazil. She was the American ambassador in Brasilia during the transition from Fernando Henrique Cardoso to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, when there was much worry in the U.S. about the direction Brazil would take under the presidency of a former union leader and founder of the workers party. But Ambassador Hrinak established good relations with the new government in Brasilia. More importantly, she convinced Washington to do the same, which brought major positive results for both Brazil and for the U.S.

France has also run a major campaign in Brazil in support of the Rafale. Initially this appeared to be the front-runner, principally because France had gained the support of then president Lula da Silva, and of the Brazilian defense minister, Nelson Jobim. But the new president, Dilma Rousseff, who took office in January, put the decision on hold until next year. Jobim in the meanwhile left office in August. He resigned as defense minister, not as the result of a corruption scandal, which has seen President Rousseff lose five ministers so far this year. But because of his overly frank remarks about the quality of two female ministers, appointed to key positions in Dilma Rousseff’s government, as well as the revelation that he had voted for her opponent, Jose Serra, in the last presidential election.

Brazilian Navy Full Deploy (credit: ibid)

 

The Brazilian navy is also looking at deals with BAE systems for patrol boats and frigates, and other European countries are in the market as well. The point is that that Brazil is potentially one of the major defense markets in the world, and that on several fronts it is getting very close to taking major decisions over the purchase of advanced defense systems.

 


 

 

 

The point is that Brazil is potentially one of the major defense markets in the world, and that on several fronts it is getting very close to taking major decisions over the purchase of advanced defense systems.

The merits of the various systems under consideration are controversial to be sure. But the U.S. is certainly not doing much to help the process. Brazil is a South Americas giant. While there have been periods of close Brazilian-American relations in defense matters, especially during the second world war, it is also true that for much of its history, Brazil perceived the U.S. to be a rival. Many members of its political establishment continue to be highly suspicious of the US. It is not difficult to stir up opposition to the U.S. in Brazil, especially over anything to do with the military. It was not a great help to Brazilian sensitivities, therefore, when at the recent hearing on the nomination of Roberta Jacobson to be assistant secretary of state for inter-American relations, before the Western hemisphere committee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that Brazil was barely mentioned.

The focus instead was on Cuba, and Cuban American relations. Not surprising perhaps given the dominant role of Cuban American on that committee. The chair, Bob Menendez  (D-NJ), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) are understandably concerned with Cuba.  Senator Jim De Mint (R-South Carolina) and Sen Rubio, had already given a rough ride to Roberta Jacobson’s predecessor as assistant secretary of state, Arturo Valenzuela, in hearings over recent years, before the committee. But again they focused largely on U.S. policy towards Central America and Cuba. The Brazilian press has rightly commented on this indifference. Senator Marco Rubio should remember that that a million Brazilians entered Florida last year and spend 1.4 billion dollars. The UK sent more, some 1.3 million visitors, but they spent half as much as the Brazilians. US$ 13.9 billion in Brazil’s trade is with South Florida,.and South Florida is home of 15 Brazilian multinationals, including Oderbrecht construction, and Embraer Aircraft Holdings.

However, it is not only a question of markets in Brazil for U.S. aircraft. It is a question also about the openness of the U.S. market for Brazilian aircraft. The orchestrated attack on Brazil’s Super Tucano aircraft, a highly attractive competitor in the U.S., is very much a case in point [1]. Brazilians find it odd, to say the least, that at just the moment when a major deal is in the offing, U.S. protectionist and political opposition should arise.

Not a good way as the old saying goes: “to make friends and influence people.”

 

Photo credit: ibid

It is not only a question of markets in Brazil for U.S. aircraft. It is a question also about the openness of the U.S. market for Brazilian aircraft. The orchestrated attack on Brazil’s Super Tucano aircraft, a highly attractive competitor in the U.S., is very much a case in point.

 

 

————–

[1] See on this issue : http://www.sldinfo.com/the-missing-coalition-perspective-in-the-us-defense-spending-debate-the-super-tucano-case/

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

©2014 sldInfo. All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions.