On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden visited South America for the second time this year. According to a White House Press Secretary statement, his visit marks an almost unprecedented period of high-level activity in the Western Hemisphere by any administration in recent memory.
Biden began his trip to Latin America in Natal, Brazil, where he attended the U.S. soccer team’s World Cup debut. Today, the Vice President traveled to Brasilia where he met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Vice President Michel Temer.
Leading up to his trip, Biden agreed to an interview with Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo in which he emphasized the importance of strengthening bilateral cooperation, particularly in the area of energy.
Biden went on to recognize Brazil as a highly important energy provider. Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol (after the United States).
In March 2011, in efforts to strengthen energy cooperation, the two governments launched the Strategic Energy Dialogue initiative in order to facilitate greater cooperation in the development of safe, secure, and affordable energy.
However, since 2011, total bilateral ethanol trade between the two countries has declined falling from 33,000 barrels per day in 2011 to 19,000 barrels per day in 2013.
Despite the recent decline in ethanol trade, in 2013, Brazil was the United States’ ninth largest trading partner, and the United States was Brazil’s second largest trading partner, behind China.
Cyber security issues
U.S.-Brazilian relations have been particularly strained over the past year as a result of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance activities inside Brazil which revealed that the intelligence agency hacked into the state-owned Petrobras oil company's computer network and intercepted President Rousseff's personal communications.
Following the revelations, several U.S. software companies implicated in the scandal have pledged to increase security measures.
In addition, the U.S. State Department has issued several statements assuring that NSA spying activities only target individuals whom pose a threat to U.S national security.
Despite promises from Washington and U.S software companies, the Brazilian government is taking precautionary measures in order to protect its national sovereignty.
Currently, the Brazilian government is in the process of designing Expresso V3, an encrypted email service in order to ensure greater security. Brazil’s decision to create more secure software systems represents a growing trend in the region.
Last month, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) defense council met to discuss strategies to strengthen cyber defense policies. This meeting was coordinated following the signing of the Paramaribo declaration, which states an institutional commitment to coordinate and strengthen cyber defense policies.