as published in the Washington Examiner - Opinion - February 12, 2023
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and President Joe Biden met in Washington this week. But whatever they discussed, the top of their agenda should be filled by a push for collaboration on energy production, the prevention of deforestation, and countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
As the two biggest markets in the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Brazil are natural partners that should be doing more together to counter climate change. Over the years, Brazil has been developing a small but capable civilian nuclear energy capacity which the U.S. should actively support.
Furthermore, Brazil is home to the largest portion of the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of the Earth. The U.S. has a vested interest in helping Brazil navigate the economic opportunities it has to gain from reducing the pace of deforestation. As the country that founded the world’s first modern national parks system under the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, the U.S. has had a long history of championing the environment without unduly encumbering innovators in the private sector. The Biden administration must once again embrace this part of America’s rich history here.
If the U.S. does not seize the opportunity to improve environmental, diplomatic, and commercial ties with Brazil, others will step into the void. Indeed, they have done so already. For many years now, China, not the U.S., has been Brazil’s top trading partner. Yet China does not look to Brazil as an equal to be treated with respect for long-term bilateral diplomatic gains. Rather, it sees the country as a resource-rich tract of land to be taken advantage of for as long as possible without a second thought to the long-term environmental damage caused along the way.
The U.S. and Brazil have much in common as democracies and the largest countries on their respective continents of a shared hemisphere. Both are home to huge marketplaces, and both have recently struggled with serious challenges to their democratic institutions. We have many opportunities that are best served together.
J.P. Carroll is a senior fellow with the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @JPCarrollDC1.