U.S., Brazil Strengthen Ties Through Subnational Engagement

Posted by Reta Jo Lewis
June 15, 2012
Signing Ceremony Between the Fulton County, Georgia and the State of Bahia, Brazil

Yesterday, I arrived in Brazil to participate in the ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) World Congress 2012, and serve as a member of the U.S. delegation to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, June 20-22. Three U.S. city and county officials will serve as private sector advisors to the delegation.

Collaborations at the local level are strengthening our overall bilateral relationship with Brazil. For example, on May 24, 2012, Fulton County, Georgia and the State of Bahia, Brazil signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote local cooperation. In the spirit of the U.S.-Brazil MOU to Support State and Local Cooperation signed during Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's visit to the United States in April 2012, I traveled to Atlanta to participate in the signing ceremony. I had the pleasure of joining Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and Bahia Governor Jacques Wagner, along with former Atlanta Mayors Shirley Franklin and Sam Massell, at the ceremony at the Fulton County Government Center in Atlanta.

This agreement, a first for Fulton County, is the second involving a Georgia county and a state in Brazil. U.S. and Brazilian officials attending the ceremony enthusiastically embraced the new relationship as an historic partnership that promises greater business and social ties between the two local governments. "We are a county and city of tremendous diversity," said Chairman Eaves. "Brazil, too, has wonderful diversity. ...I'm looking forward to an exciting future of collaboration."

The Fulton County, GA-Bahia MOU was conceived during Fulton County's participation in the United States-Brazil Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality since 2010. The MOU recognizes and enhances this existing relationship formalizing efforts made by Fulton County and the State of Bahia to access economic opportunity, support international education exchange, and share their experiences from the 1996 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games held in Atlanta.

Bahia, a popular tourist destination and Brazil's fourth most populous state with 14 million residents is located on the country's northeastern coast. Through this agreement, Bahia -- who will host one of the 2014 World Cup events -- will reach out to Metro Atlanta to learn best practices from the 1994 Super Bowl and the 1996 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games that were held in Atlanta. In addition to economic development and tourism, the new partnership will look to promote initiatives involving public health; youth development and education; arts and culture; and promotion of justice, citizenship and human rights.

As the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, I lead the Department's efforts to collaborate with state and local leaders and their counterparts. I have traveled to over 11 Brazilian cities and states to expand relationships between U.S. mayors and governors and their counterparts in Brazil to encourage collaboration in areas of mutual interest, such as education, cultural and technical exchange, economic growth, sustainable development, democracy, social inclusion, and preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In each of the cities I visited, I was met with incredible enthusiasm.

As a result, exchanges between Brazilian and U.S. subnational entities have become more numerous and robust. Georgia has been a pioneer of subnational relationships with Brazil for quite a long time. For example, Atlanta and Rio de Janeiro have enjoyed a Sister City relationship since 1972, former President Jimmy Carter initiated a partnership with the State of Pernambuco when he was Governor of Georgia, and Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle led a delegation from Georgia's tourism industry to meet with representatives from Brazil's tourism sector earlier this year.

We are committed to ongoing engagement with local Brazilian officials to discuss joint efforts to foster economic prosperity through access to education and increased trade and investment, and support for social inclusion.

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