On Tuesday, February 1, 2011, the World Affairs Council of Charlotte hosted His Excellency Mauro Vieira, Brazilian Ambassador to the United States. The Ambassadors Circle Series Luncheon was sponsored by General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GDATP) and Springs Global. Ambassador Vieira addressed the similarities and excellent bilateral relations between the United States and Brazil, the important ties that Charlotte and Brazil share, as well as the challenges the nation still faces.

(Left: Ambassador Mauro Vieira; Ljubomir Stambuk, President, World Affairs Council of Charlotte)

After separating from Portugal in 1822, The United States was the first country to recognize Brazil as an independent state. Both the US and Brazil have similar histories of European colonization and independence. Brazil recognized early on that the US would play a larger role in its future than Europe. The US and Brazil were strategic allies through both WWI and WWII and share a number of issues. For example, both nations, each in a constant state of transition, have been in a deficit for the past 2-3 years. Both the US and Brazil have been compared as “American Brothers” sharing relatively the same size, geographic landscape, and similar collections of ethnic groups.

In the last 2 decades, Brazil has gone through a transformation with economic growth and social inclusion. Thirty million people have been pulled out of poverty and 25 million have moved into middle class status to start consumption. From the 1950s-1980s there was economic growth but only in concentrated areas and there were still many social imbalances and injustices to be addressed. “Only by reducing social disparities were we able to rise as a global presence.”

Ambassador Vieira spoke highly of US-Brazilian cooperation in the underdeveloped countries of Africa in the fight against hunger and disease as well as the work done in the bio-fuel industry. The United States and Brazil currently make up the largest humanitarian presence in Haiti since the earthquake 1 year ago. Between the two nations there are more than 20 mechanisms of dynamic dialogue established by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with the planned visit to Brazil by President Obama.

There are growing investments in both countries in the construction, food and chemical industries. In 2001, for every $22 that the US invested in Brazil, Brazil only invested $1 in the US. In 2007, the ratio lowered $8-$1 and today the ratio is $1-$1. This is just another example of Brazil’s economic growth over the last decade. Brazil is no longer a receiver from the US, but a contributor.

The US economy is a high priority to Brazil. Brazil also recognizes the growth here in Charlotte. Brazilian companies such as Providencia USA Inc. and Springs Global have a strong presence in the Queen City. In addition, U.S. companies, like GDATP and US Airways are pursuing current and future partnerships in Brazil for their various business ventures in that country. The corporate presence paired with the large Brazilian population has made Charlotte, North Carolina a Brazilian portal, bridging the state with flights from Charlotte International Airport to Rio de Janeiro.

Lastly addressed was the condition of the Brazilian school system. Ambassador Vieira touched on the poor state of the school system and how the system vastly differs from the school systems here in the US. “Unfortunately, the social injustices took the biggest toll on the schools from the elementary to high school levels. Private schools are very good but not a lot of people can afford them.” However, there are many great government-sponsored universities, at least one in each state. Brazil is very conscious of the problems with the education system and is attempting to work with world banks and other countries to improve it.

For more information on Ambassador Vieira’s visit to Charlotte, check out the article published in the Charlotte Observer.

Written by Elizabeth Dunbar, UNC Charlotte (International PR)