BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil and the United States, the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere, have a history of close business and diplomatic ties — as well as disputes over trade and other issues.
HISTORY OF BRAZIL-U.S. TIES
1876 - Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II becomes the first foreign head of state ever to set foot on U.S. soil. He meets President Ulysses S. Grant and visits a fair in Philadelphia to celebrate the U.S. centennial.
1940s - Lobbying by Portuguese-American military officers helps convince Brazil to join the Allied effort in World War II. In return, the United States provides financing and technology that help create Brazil’s steel industry.
1964 - Alarmed by close relations between Brazil’s democratically elected government and Cuba, the military stages a coup and installs a dictatorship with backing from the U.S. government. The dictatorship arrests and tortures dissidents.
1985 - Democracy returns to Brazil.
1990s - President Fernando Henrique Cardoso embarks on free-market reforms and privatizations that receive enthusiastic support from Washington. However, Brazil’s policy of encouraging local pharmaceutical companies to make generic versions of foreign AIDS medicines causes a major rift.
2001 - The September 11 attacks cause Washington to turn its focus away from Latin America, just as Brazil’s economy is starting to take off.
2003 - Former left-wing labor leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva becomes president. He maintains cordial ties with Washington but pursues a confrontational stance in the World Trade Organization, cultivates relationships with anti-U.S. countries like Iran and Venezuela, and helps defeat U.S. aspirations for a free trade area across the Americas.
2010 - Relations bottom out after Lula tries to broker a deal to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
2011 - Dilma Rousseff, a top Lula aide and former guerrilla leader who was tortured by her military captors during the dictatorship, is inaugurated as president. She immediately stakes out a more pragmatic path than Lula on some issues and seeks to improve relations with Washington.
Bilateral trade has diminished in relative terms in recent years, with China surpassing the United States as Brazil’s No. 1 trade partner last year for the first time.
In 2010, Brazilian exports to the United States totaled $19.3 billion — up significantly from the depths of the global crisis, but still down 30 percent from 2008. Imports from the United States to Brazil were $27.3 billion, as Brazil’s strong currency and the best economic growth in two decades prompted an explosion of purchases by consumers and companies.
Brazil’s main exports to the United States in 2010 were: petroleum, iron ore, coffee and automobile tires.
The United States’ main exports to Brazil were: diesel, coal, engine parts and airline components.
Brazilian companies have stepped up acquisitions in the United States in recent years, taking advantage of the economic crisis there to snap up assets on the cheap. Some examples include steelmaker Gerdau and state-owned Banco do Brasil, Brazil’s largest bank.
These are some of the top subsidiaries or operating units of U.S. companies in Brazil, ranked by sales in 2009:
General Motors $11.3 bln
Wal-Mart $8.6 bln
Ford $8.4 bln
Cargill $8.4 bln
AES $7.4 bln
Whirlpool $3.8 bln
Bunge $3.3 bln
Kraft Foods $2.7 bln
IBM $2.6 bln
Sprint Nextel $2.4 bln
SOURCES: Brazil trade ministry, Exame magazine, historical texts