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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BRASILIA678 2006-04-07 18:06 2010-12-21 19:07 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Brasilia
DE RUEHBR #0678/01 0971857
O 071857Z APR 06






REFS: (A) STATE 52607, (B) STATE 52608, (C) BRASILIA 674 

1. (SBU) The United States Mission in Brazil warmly welcomes your April 12-15, 2006 visit to Brasilia (DF) and Manaus (AM), Brazil. We look forward to your trip and are arranging meetings and events for you in Brasilia and Manaus. As the Charge d'Affaires, I will meet your party upon arrival and accompany you to your meetings in Brasilia. Science Counselor Patricia Norman will meet you in Manaus, and accompany you throughout your stay in Manaus. 

2. (SBU) Your trip comes at a transition point on the political scene. During the second semester of 2005, congressional deputies from Lula's governing coalition were accused of accepting bribes, while officials from the President's party (the PT) were alleged to have engaged in influence peddling and illegal campaign fund-raising. These revelations forced the resignation of several members of Lula's inner circle, including his Chief of Staff (who was also expelled from Congress) and more recently his Finance Minister (who is facing a criminal investigation). 

3. (SBU) However, "scandal fatigue" has set in, and President Lula has successfully used the slack time over the Brazilian holidays to recover lost political ground. Recent polls show Lula regaining the lead in the presidential race, and defeating the recently chosen PSDB party candidate, Geraldo Alckmin, were elections held now. As we get closer to the October presidential elections, Lula will likely expand anti-poverty programs and increase pork-barrel spending, to cement his standing among working class voters. Despite Lula's recent recovery in polls, the potential for additional scandal revelations and the probability of a well-run national campaign by Alckmin that raises his profile with voters make sound predictions impossible at this point. 

THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP -------------------------- 

4. (SBU) While relations between the U.S. and Brazil are friendly, often the USG encounters major difficulties in gaining the cooperation of senior policymakers on issues of significant interest to the United States. Eager to assert its own influence, the Brazilian government shies away from cooperation with the USG - unless it can clearly be characterized as a reciprocal exchange among equals. Indeed, hyper-sensitivity on issues viewed as infringing on Brazil's sovereignty can get out of hand and may be seen as signs of political immaturity. Many Brazilians believe the U.S. has designs on the Amazon. Our fingerprinting of visitors to the U.S. drew reciprocal treatment for Americans here; visa and immigration issues remain sensitive points. 

5. (SBU) During recent months, our ongoing dialogue with the Brazilians has focused on a variety of potentially useful projects for both sides. We sought to interest the GOB in a Defense Cooperation Accord, but the Foreign Ministry rejected the proposal even though the Defense Ministry was supportive. Gaining agreement on privileges and immunities to be granted U.S. servicemen engaging in military exercises has been just as tough sledding, as the Foreign Ministry saw it as "a foot in the door" and linked it with Brazil's strong opposition to Article 98 agreements. We are receptive to renegotiation of a stalled bilateral agreement governing space launches at the country's equatorial base at Alcantara, but the GOB has moved glacially to re-engage, even though the agreement clearly serves Brazilian interests. On trade issues, when unscripted, President Lula has characterized the FTAA as "off his agenda." In addition, in the wake of its WTO victory against the USG on cotton subsidies, Brazil has been vocal in seeking to get the USG to enact remedies immediately, notwithstanding the fact that our Congress is still working on the Farm Bill. IPR is another sore point, as it has become clear that the USG and the Brazilian government have different views on the degree of protection to be afforded to intellectual property. Only after much lobbying have we gotten the GOB to: a) turn the corner on copyright piracy, and b) persuaded policymakers to seek negotiated solutions rather than compulsory licensing of AIDS anti-retrovirals. Some U.S. funding in support of the development of Brazil's HIV/AIDS programs have run into a snag. Nearly $5 million in support may be lost if issues involving grants to local NGO's are not resolved. 

6. (SBU) However, not all our conversations are difficult. At the personal level, Lula has met President Bush several times and the 

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two have a good rapport. On issues involving matters perceived as technical in nature - i.e., law enforcement and science (but not counter-terrorism) - the GOB is eager to engage. For example, they are active in the planning of a bilateral science and technology commission meeting planned for June, a positive outcome of the POTUS visit to Brazil last November. The Brazilians are also interested in working with U.S. forest agencies in exchanging expertise on forest management. The CDC has had excellent success in working with the Ministry of Health in technological transfer in health. NIH medical research partnerships have increased. In another area from 2003 to 2004, the GOB worked quietly with us on the timing and details of its shoot-down program to accommodate our statutory requirements (although now a new crop of GOB bureaucrats appears to be unaware of the government's past promises). 

7. (SBU) On development assistance issues, our dialogue is positive - but constrained. Notwithstanding lackluster results to date, the Brazilian government's multi-billion dollar poverty alleviation program -Zero Hunger - receives substantial funding from the World Bank and IDB. Given USG budget constraints and the fact that Zero Hunger is, in essence, a cash transfer program (albeit with conditions), USAID support has been limited. Instead of focusing on cash transfers to the poor, USAID has sought to target its efforts towards promoting sustainable livelihoods - inter alia, through working with small and medium-sized enterprises. The Embassy's Public Affairs programs aimed at promoting young leaders takes a similar targeted approach. This difference in focus, broad cash transfers versus targeted assistance, ends up putting the USG at the margins of Brazil's overall anti-poverty efforts. 

AGRICULTURE ----------- 

8. (U) Agriculture is a major sector of the Brazilian economy, and is key for economic growth and foreign exchange. Agriculture accounts for 13% of GDP (and 30% when including agribusiness) and 36% of Brazilian exports. Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugar cane, coffee, tropical fruits, frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ), and has the world's largest commercial cattle herd (50% larger than the U.S.) at 170 million head. Brazil is also an important producer of soybeans (second to the United States), corn, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, and forest products. The remainder of agricultural output is in the livestock sector, mainly the production of beef and poultry (second to the United States), pork, milk, and seafood. 

ENVIRONMENT ----------- 

9. (U) As one of the world's "megadiverse" countries, environmental issues loom large in Brazil. Of the world's known plant species, 22% exist in Brazil, and the figures for birds (17%), mammals (11%), and fish (11%) are also significant. The Amazon basin holds 20% of the world's fresh water. Presently, approximately 22% of the Brazilian Amazon is set aside as official indigenous reserves and an additional 12% of the Amazon should be protected in parks over the next ten years. Amazon deforestation rates, however, have been very high the last few years, driven by strong expansion in Brazilian agriculture, particularly the drive for land by the cattle and soy industries. Yet, a significant fall in the rate of deforestation from 2005 to 2006 marks what many hope is the turning point for the Amazon and Brazil's efforts to combat deforestation. 

10. (U) Internationally, Brazil is an energetic advocate on environmental issues and treaties including the Kyoto Protocol. Yet, for many, the Brazilian government has not met the high and largely exaggerated expectations of many environmentalists during the first years of the Lula Administration. The early 2005 passage of a Biosafety law, representing an opportunity to legalize GMO crops, drew especially strong criticism from environmentalists. The agricultural industry's lobbying for expansion of the transportation network in the Amazon has raised additional concern. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment and others in the government have launched several policy initiatives focused on sustainable development and conservation in the Amazon and Atlantic Forests, hoping to broaden the policymaking base for environmental protection. These efforts were recently strengthened by the passage of a forest concessions law. As in other policy areas, the Lula Administration is more centrist on environmental issues than much of its devoted, leftist 

BRASILIA 00000678 003 OF 005 

political base expected. 

ETHANOL ------- 11. (U) The success of Brazil's ethanol program has made it a model for the world in terms of alternative energy. Brazil's comparative advantage is its ability to inexpensively produce ethanol from sugarcane, which has the highest starch content of any plant stock. In addition to obtaining five harvests from one planting, cane hulls (bagasse) are used to produce the thermal energy necessary to power the conversion process. Cane also requires less processing than ethanol produced from corn -- which is the method used in the U.S. to manufacture ethanol. According to the World Bank, at current prices, Brazil can make ethanol for about US$1 a gallon, compared with the international price of about US$1.50 a gallon for gasoline. At the pump ethanol receives favorable tax treatment from the Brazilian government. It is exempted from the largest federal tax on gasoline (CIDE) and is subject to lower rates on two other federal levies (PIS and COFINS). Nevertheless, ethanol prices can vary substantially from state to state and can be volatile during the interharvest season when supply is not guaranteed. In contrast, gasoline prices tend to vary less and are controlled by the government. 

12. (U) Since the 1980s, Brazil has attempted, without great success, to promote ethanol fuel exports to the United States. U.S. tariffs and charges make Brazilian imports uncompetitive. In addition to import tariffs of 1.9 to 2.5 percent, the U.S. imposes a 54 cents/gallon charge on ethanol imported for use as fuel. This charge must be paid by countries not covered by FTAs or other trade preference arrangements. Given the requirements of its fast-growing domestic market, whether Brazil will indeed be able to produce enough ethanol to supply international markets is an open question. Some estimate that over the next one to two years, the maximum percentage of Brazil's cane crop which can be devoted to ethanol production is 54%. If so, this would mean that Brazilian ethanol production is already running at 95 percent of capacity; and the country's ability to expand its sugarcane acreage is limited to perhaps 20 percent over the next 3-4 years. 

13. (U) Brazil's Ministry of Science and Technology has indicated its desire to work with the United States on technical cooperation programs relating to ethanol. 

FOREIGN POLICY -------------- 

14. (SBU) Reflecting Brazil's ambivalence towards the United States, President Lula has run an activist foreign policy with a focus on South America and the Third World, seeking to forge alliances with other mid-sized powers (South Africa, India, etc.). He has traveled extensively in pursuit of a higher international profile for Brazil. Despite prodding from the USG and others, Lula has refused to condemn Cuba for human rights violations and, in fact, at one point pushed for Cuban membership in the Rio Group. Brazil has also advocated a Cuba-Mercosul trade pact, and has now agreed to upgrade Venezuela from associate membership to full membership status in Mercosul. The GOB has worked to increase both its economic and political ties with Venezuela. Enhanced integration of the two countries' energy sectors is high on its agenda. Lula has been especially solicitous of Chavez. During the September 29-30, 2005 South American Community of Nations Summit in Brasilia, Lula praised the Venezuelan President's democratic credentials ("if anything, Venezuela has an excess of democracy") and declared that the Chavez government had been demonized by its foes. Lula reiterated these themes during an early December visit by Chavez to the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. 

15. (SBU) Given its size and natural resources, Brazil has long seen itself as the natural leader of the region (even though that perception is not shared by its neighbors). Emblematic of Brazil's efforts to gain greater standing on the world stage is its tenacious pursuit of a permanent UN Security Council (UNSC) seat. In fact, many observers point out that Brazil has "subordinated" other economic and political interests with such countries as China and Russia in exchange for support (which has not been forthcoming) for its UNSC aspirations. Brazil and other G4 states (India, Germany, Japan) are, despite recent setbacks, 

BRASILIA 00000678 004 OF 005 

continuing to press their campaign for a vote on a resolution on UNSC reform. This stance is at odds with the position of many Latin American countries, including those which Brazil believes should follow its "natural leadership." 

16. (SBU) Brazil has long seen international fora as a way to enhance its international stature. Reflecting this, in 2005 it launched failed national candidates for the top jobs at both the WTO and the IDB. The failure of both, together with the unlikely prospects for a permanent seat in the UNSC, has widely been seen in Brazil as a "political disaster. 

PRESIDENT LULA -------------- 

17. (SBU) President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was inaugurated in January 2003 after a career as a Sao Paulo metalworker and labor leader. He founded the left-of-center Workers' Party (PT) in 1980 and lost three presidential campaigns before winning in the October 2002 elections. Lula is eligible to run for reelection in October 2006. Elected in large part on promises of promoting an ambitious social agenda, including a "Zero Hunger" program, Lula's government has failed to deliver much in this area, as managerial shortcomings and the public's top concern - crime and public security - have not improved under this administration. 

18. (SBU) As noted above, in recent months the Lula Administration has been beset by a grave political crisis as interlocking influence peddling/vote-buying scandals have plagued elements of Lula's PT party. During the second half of 2005, the crisis placed Lula on the defensive and politics were dominated by investigations, accusations and revelations. The President's Chief of Staff resigned his post and was later expelled from Congress. Meanwhile, several other congressmen are the subjects of investigations and expulsion proceedings owing to bribery allegations. Most recently, Lula's influential Finance Minister Palocci has stepped down amidst renewed charges of corruption. Thus far, Brazilian society - including the opposition - seems disinclined to hold Lula personally responsible for the scandals, and he has recovered some lost ground in public opinion. 

MACRO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS --------------------------- 

19. (SBU) President Lula and his economic team have implemented prudent fiscal and monetary policies and pursued necessary microeconomic reforms. As a result, Brazil's economy, aided by a benign international environment, has flourished. GDP growth of 4.9% in 2004 has coupled with booming exports, healthy external accounts, tame inflation, decreasing unemployment and reductions in the debt-to-GDP ratio. While GDP growth in 2005 registered 2.3% -- with third quarter growth coming in at negative .08% --
economic activity should pick up in early 2006. In recent months the real has risen sharply against the dollar while the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange (BOVESPA) has hit record levels. In March 2005, the Brazilian government declined to renew its Stand-By Agreement with the IMF and in mid-December 2005 it announced it would prepay both its remaining IMF and Paris Club obligations. 

20. (SBU) Overall, while Brazil has made considerable progress, problems remain. Despite registering its first year-on-year decline in 2004, Brazil's (largely domestic) government debt remains high, at 51% of GDP. Real interest rates (at nearly 12 percent) are among the highest in the world. Income and land distribution remain skewed. Investment (including FDI) is low. The country's sovereign risk ratings are two to three levels below investment grade. And the informal sector constitutes between 35 to 40 percent of the economy, in part because the tax burden (nearly 38 percent of GDP) is so high. The good news is that the uncertainty surrounding the political scandal has not frightened away foreign investors. 21. (SBU) Sustaining high growth rates in the longer term depends on the impact of President Lula's structural reform program and efforts to build a more welcoming climate for investment, both domestic and foreign. In its first year, the Lula administration passed key tax and pension reforms to improve the government fiscal accounts. Judicial reform and an overhaul of the bankruptcy law, which should improve the functioning of credit markets, were passed in late 2004, along with tax measures to create incentives for long-term savings 

BRASILIA 00000678 005 OF 005 

and investments. 

22. (SBU) Public-Private Partnerships, a key effort to attract private investment to infrastructure, also passed in 2004, although implementation of this initiative still awaits promulgation of the necessary regulations. Labor reform and autonomy for the Central Bank were on the agenda for 2005, but now look unlikely to be addressed until after the October 2006 elections. Despite this well-considered reform agenda, much remains to be done. The government needs to improve the regulatory climate for investment, particularly in the energy sector; to simplify torturous tax systems at the state and federal levels; and to further reform the pension system. Given the proximity of the October elections, prospects for much of this reform agenda are dim for the remainder of Lula's term. 

TRADE POLICY ------------ 

23. (SBU) To increase its international profile(both economically and politically), the Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty) is seeking expanded trade ties with developing countries, as well as strengthening the Mercosul customs union with Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. Arguably the GoB has fallen short on this latter objective. The Brazil-Argentine relationship is rife with trade disputes, recently leading to adoption of a safeguard mechanism for bilateral trade. Meanwhile, Uruguay and Paraguay regularly complain that Brazil and Argentina reap a disproportionate share of benefits from the bloc, and threaten the group's solidarity in various ways -- for instance, Uruguay's recent open discussion of a possible FTA with the United States, which would contravene Mercosul rules. 

24. (SBU) Nonetheless, the bloc remains engaged in certain external trade negotiations. In 2004, Mercosul concluded free trade agreements with Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru, adding to its existing agreements with Chile and Bolivia to establish a commercial base for the newly-launched South American Community of Nations. As noted earlier, Mercosul is upgrading Venezuela's status from associate to full membership. In addition to Cuba, the bloc is currently exploring free trade talks with Israel, the Dominican Republic, Panama and states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as trying to build on partial trade liberalization agreements concluded with India and South Africa in 2004.

25. (SBU) China, which was offered market economy status by Brazil as a part of Lula's effort to secure PRC support for Brazil's bid for a USNC seat, has increased its importance as an export market for Brazilian soy, iron ore and steel, becoming Brazil's fourth largest trading partner and a potential source of investment. However, low-priced Chinese imports, particularly in the textile, footwear, and toy sectors, are now threatening to displace domestic Brazilian production. As many Brazilian observers have indicated, all this effort is aimed at countries which together represent less than a third of Brazil's foreign trade. Free trade negotiations with the EU continue to languish.