Last updated in February 2015

Political relations

Political, economic, cultural and social relations between Germany and Brazil stand on a broad foundation. They are based on shared values and concurring positions on global issues. Brazil is the only Latin American country with which Germany enjoys a “strategic partnership”. This is based on the German-Brazilian Strategic Partnership Action Plan of May 2008, in which both countries agreed to further step up bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Bilateral cooperation is wide-ranging, covering a number of areas such as international crisis management, business, energy, environmental and climate protection, defence, labour and social affairs as well as human rights. With funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the International Climate Initiative, Germany is working together with Brazil to protect the country’s tropical forest and promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Both Germany and Brazil attach particular importance to scientific, technological and cultural exchange. The fact that large numbers of Germans emigrated to Brazil in the past has a favourable effect on cooperation.

Mutual visits by politicians are frequent. During his visit to Brazil in May 2013, Federal President Joachim Gauck launched a series of more than 500 events under the motto Germany and Brazil – Where Ideas Meet, which in 2013 and 2014 presented a comprehensive picture of Germany as a modern, cosmopolitan and multi-faceted country. The Federal Chancellor visited Brazil twice in 2014, to coincide with the FIFA World Cup. During her first visit, on 15 June 2014, she held extensive consultations with President Rousseff. Federal President Gauck and Federal Chancellor Merkel paid a joint visit to Brazil to attend the World Cup final.

Brazil and Germany work together closely on numerous issues on the international agenda, in particular the reform of the United Nations, including the enlargement of the Security Council by the admission of new permanent and non-permanent members, and the reform of the global financial system. Cooperation also encompasses international climate protection and environmental policy, the G20 (financial, monetary and global economic issues) and the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. This has been complemented by close bilateral cooperation on cybersecurity issues, in particular protecting privacy in the digital age – a joint draft resolutions to this effect were successfully submitted to the United Nations General Assembly in December 2013 and December 2014.

The first German-Brazilian intergovernmental consultations are scheduled for 2015. Federal Chancellor Merkel is expected to attend the meeting in Brasilia together with a number of her ministers. 

Economic relations

With a total area of 8.547 million square kilometres, Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country with the world’s fifth largest population (201 million). It is a young country with a population that continues to grow. Brazil is Germany’s principal Latin American trading partner. Over a period of two decades, bilateral trade in both directions gained impetus. After a temporary decline due to the economic and monetary crisis, it has picked up again since 2009, though this growth has recently lost momentum. In 2013, German exports to Brazil were worth approximately EUR 11.4 billion, a decline of 2.7 per cent compared with 2012. German imports from Brazil fell by 16 per cent in 2013 compared with the previous year, to EUR 9 billion, putting Brazil in 20th place among countries importing goods from Germany and in 23rd place among exporters to Germany. According to Federal Statistical Office figures, in 2013 Germany recorded a balance of trade surplus of EUR 2.5 billion. Trade figures are not yet available for 2014 but there have been declines in both exports and imports.

Brazil’s main exports to Germany are iron ore, soya and soya products, coffee and coffee products, vehicle parts, civil aircraft, machinery, meat, copper and crude oil. Brazil’s principal imports from Germany are machinery, cars and car parts, basic chemical materials, pharmaceutical products, electrical and metal goods.

In 2013, German direct investment in Brazil was worth an estimated USD 2.2 billion, bringing aggregate German direct investment – including reinvestment – to more than USD 24 billion. There are more than 1,300 German-Brazilian companies employing a total workforce of approximately 250,000 people. With some 900 German-Brazilian companies, São Paulo has one of the largest concentrations of German business worldwide. Brazilian direct investment in Germany has so far been fairly limited. German companies’ massive presence in Brazil and their local manufacturing and production facilities also explain why the volume of bilateral trade is not higher still.

In Brazil, Germany has German-Brazilian Chambers of Commerce and Industry based in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre, as well as a Germany Trade & Invest (gtai) correspondent  in São Paulo. The chambers provide extensive information material for German exporters and investors, e.g. the Brazil Export Manual, the Brazil Investment Manual and Fit4Brazil, and are available to answer any investment-related questions.

To strengthen bilateral economic relations, the German-Brazilian Economic Meeting is held annually and includes meetings for entrepreneurs. It is organised by the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and its Brazilian counterpart, the Confederação Nacional da Indústria (CNI). The meeting of the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation is scheduled to coincide with the Economic Meeting.

The 33rd German-Brazilian Economic Meeting is to be held from 20 to 22 September 2015 in the Brazilian city of Joinville. Both at these meetings and at various foreign trade fairs, there is evidence of Brazil’s keen interest in German future-oriented technologies in sectors such as transport, infrastructure, urban development, health care, renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate protection.

Cooperation in the cultural and education sectors

On the cultural front, too, Brazil is an important partner for Germany. Brazil, for its part, has traditionally been very keen to cooperate with Germany. A cultural agreement was concluded in 1969 and a supplementary agreement on the status of cultural intermediaries in 2005.

Cooperation focuses on teaching German as a foreign language, special consideration being given to the German Schools, cultural programme work and scientific and academic exchange.

German-Brazilian cultural relations were given fresh momentum by the Year of Germany in Brazil 2013/2014. The programme, which ended in May 2014, featured more than 1,100 events nationwide. Besides numerous new projects – including exhibitions like the Science Tunnel that drew more than 40,000 visitors, concert tours by German symphony and chamber orchestras, an open-air concert by German pop band Seeed and Germany’s participation as Guest of Honour in the 2013 International Book Fair in Rio de Janeiro – the Year of Germany in Brazil has helped raise the profile of existing cooperation projects and present to Brazilians a modern and comprehensive picture of Germany. Germany’s image in the country was also boosted by the FIFA World Cup that Brazil hosted. German diplomatic missions and cultural intermediaries in Brazil organised numerous events to coincide with the World Cup.

The Goethe Institute’s network in Brazil encompasses five institutes: in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Porto Alegre and Curitiba as well as the Goethe Centre in Brasília. The focus is on language work as well as extensive programme work. German-Brazilian cultural societies make an important contribution to Germany’s cultural presence in Brazil, especially in the areas settled by German immigrants in the south of the country (Blumenau, Joinville and São Bento do Sul), but also in the north-east (Recife, Fortaleza and Belém).

There are four binational German Schools in Brazil leading up to the German university-entrance examination (Abitur), three in São Paulo and one in Rio de Janeiro. With some 10,000 mainly Brazilian students, the Porto Seguro School in São Paulo is the largest German School Abroad worldwide.

There are also 17 German Language Diploma (DSD) schools at which German is taught as a regular subject on a full-time basis from grades 1 to12 and where students can obtain the DSD. These schools are looked after by the Central Agency for Schools Abroad. Twenty-one other public and private schools are so-called FIT schools offering German as a foreign language. These are looked after by the Goethe Institute. This brings the total number of schools in Brazil that currently belong to the Schools – Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH) to 42. Every year, more than 2,100 students take the DSD language tests and 750 participate in exchange programmes with Germany. The Central Agency for Schools Abroad has regional offices in São Paulo and Porto Alegre, serving not only the 17 DSD schools but also over a hundred municipal schools in southern Brazil that offer German instruction.

Over the past decade, the demand for foreign language instruction in Brazil has grown continuously in step with the country’s economic development. German is seen as an important European language in terms of culture, but also increasingly as a key to professional and academic success. Wherever German as a foreign language is offered, demand exceeds the available resources. At state schools, however, the teaching of German as a foreign language is almost exclusively limited to the south of the country.

Brazil is a priority partner country of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and has for decades been one of Germany’s principal cooperation partners in the area of higher education. Among the most important exchange programmes conducted by the DAAD in cooperation with its Brazilian partners is the scholarship programme for Brazilian PhD students, the project-related individual exchange (PROBRAL) programmes and the integrated academic cooperation (UNIBRAL) projects, which also enable students to obtain double degrees and double PhDs. The overall extremely positive and successful cooperation in the various programmes with the Brazilian partner organisation CAPES is also clearly evident in the PROBRAL programme, which has so far conducted more than 400 bi-national research projects. Over the past nine years, from 2005 to 2013, a total of 17,100 Brazilian and German students and academics have taken advantage of the DAAD scholarship programmes. During this period, 9,580 Brazilians and 7,530 Germans have completed a study or research stay in the partner country. In 2013, the DAAD invested 37 per cent of the total funding available for exchange with Latin America in cooperation with Brazil.

The DAAD also plays a key role in implementing Brazil’s mobility programme Science Without Borders. Up to the end of 2014, more than 75,000 Brazilian undergraduates, PhD students and young researchers received funding enabling them to study or pursue research abroad, including some 5,800 at German universities and research institutions. To provide preparatory language instruction to scholarship holders, very year between ten and 20 DAAD teaching assistants are employed at higher education institutions in Brazil and language courses are offered at German universities. The programme has been extended for another four years.

There are currently nine academic teachers seconded by the DAAD working in Brazil – in Belém, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo (3), Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte – who also provide student advice services and promote Germany as a study and research destination.

Many German universities have their own cooperation agreements with Brazilian universities in a wide range of disciplines. According to the German Rectors’ Conference website, there are, as of January 2015, 504 university partnerships between the two countries. Germany’s growing attractiveness as a study destination for Brazilian students is also evidenced by the fact that Brazil made it to the Top 20 list of countries of origin of foreign students studying in Germany for the first time in 2013.

Research cooperation

German-Brazilian cooperation in science and technology dates back 45 years. It is based on a 1969 framework agreement that was renewed in 1996. Cooperation focuses on the environment and sustainable development.

Brazil is Germany’s principal education and science partner in Latin America. With political initiatives like the German-Brazilian Year of Science, Technology and Innovation 2010/11, the Year of Germany in Brazil 2013/2014 and the establishment of the German House of Science and Innovation in São Paulo (www.dwih.com.br), Germany has succeeded in further enhancing its presence in Brazil and giving fresh impetus to cooperation. Well over 100 events were held during the Year of Science, Technology and Innovation and the Year of Germany in Brazil also included an extensive scientific programme featuring 140 events. The DAAD, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) as well as five representatives (Frei Universität Berlin, Technische Universität München, University Alliance Ruhr, the UA S7 consortium of German universities of applied sciences and Münster University) of 13 universities are based at the German House of Science and Innovation in São Paulo. Along with Moscow, New Delhi, New York and Tokyo, it is the fifth location of its kind worldwide presenting information on German science and research and promoting cooperation with innovative German organisations and companies.

Brazil has become a highly regarded partner of Germany in project-related cooperation. In addition to bilateral cooperation between research institutions and universities (there are currently more than 504 university partnerships), organisations that are particularly engaged in Brazil include the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres (HGF) (www.helmholtz.de), the DFG (www.dfg.de), the FhG (www.fraunhofer.de), the Max Planck Society (MPG, www.mpg.de), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, AvH (www.humboldt-foundation.de) and the Leopoldina (www.leopoldina.org).

Researchers from the two countries are currently working together in the following major research projects: 

  • BRAGECRIM (including the DFG): 30 scientific institutions are cooperating in the area of production technology
  • ATTO (including the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz): construction of the 320 metre high Amazonian Tall Tower Observatory to examine the climatic function of the rain forest
  • BRAMAR (including the University of Göttingen and the RWTH Aachen): strategies and technologies for reducing water scarcity in the semi-arid north-eastern region of Brazil
  • CarBioCial (including the Universities of Göttingen, Hanover, Hamburg, Kassel, Freiberg and Berlin – the Humboldt-Universität and the Freie Universität –, Kiel and Hohenheim and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig): carbon-optimised land management in the Southern Amazonia
  • Innovate (including the TU Berlin, the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the University of Hohenheim and Dresden University of Applied Sciences): improving agricultural yield, reducing greenhouse gases and protecting biodiversity through optimised multiple use of water reservoirs for energy generation and irrigation
  • INTECRAL (including Cologne University of Applied Sciences, the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena and the University of Leipzig): providing tentative solutions in the service and technology sectors with the aim of promoting sustainable development in the environmental and economic sectors in the federal state of Rio de Janeiro
  • IEPALT (including Clausthal University of Technology): developing a process for the residue-free recycling of the complete spent pot lining from the electrolytic cells (carbon and fireclay) in the pyrometallurgical reactors used in primary aluminium production; the idea is to save raw materials and primary energy sources and reduce highly toxic hazardous waste
  • COBI (including Clausthal Institute of Environmental Technology, CUTEC): the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has been funding the cooperation project COBI since December 2014; the aim of the project is to replace coke by biomass residues in the furnaces used for iron- and steelmaking, thus helping to make metal production carbon-neutral

There are further cooperation projects in the area of marine research, the aerospace sector and agricultural research. The Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) have both opened external laboratories (Labex) in the partner country representing each country’s entire spectrum of agricultural research and intensifying cooperation.

The 28th meeting of the Joint Brazilian-German Commission for Scientific and Technological Cooperation was held in Brasília in September 2013. At the meeting, the following new priority areas of research cooperation were agreed upon: bioeconomy, biopharmaceuticals and rare earth minerals.

Cooperation for Sustainable Development

In recent years, German development cooperation with Brazil has been increasingly adapted to take account of the country’s economic development. It currently focuses on jointly addressing global problems. Germany and Brazil have undertaken international commitments on climate protection and the protection and preservation of global biodiversity. On account of both its natural resource wealth and its economic growth, Brazil is well positioned to make a significant contribution to global climate and biodiversity protection. Germany, for its part, has the technology and experience in project work to generate added value in this area. That is why the two countries are working together closely as partners, as part of Cooperation for Sustainable Development, to promote the protection of these global public assets. Priority areas of cooperation are therefore the protection and sustainable use of tropical forest and promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

With an area of 4.8 million square kilometres, Brazil’s tropical forests make up approximately ten per cent of the world’s total tropical forest area. And Brazil’s 2.5 million animal and plant species make it the world’s most biodiverse country. They also constitute a gigantic carbon sink and regulate regional and global hydrologic cycles. Since the 1990s, Germany has been cooperating with Brazil to preserve the country’s tropical forests and its current engagement includes the protection and management of indigenous areas, land and land rights issues, environmental management and the sustainable use of natural resources. A prominent example of cooperation in this area is the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) programme. It is the world’s largest protected areas project, in which Germany and Brazil are working together with other partners (including the World Wildlife Fund, the Global Environment Facility and the Inter-American Development Bank) for the long-term preservation of some 60 million hectares of Amazonian rainforest.

As a champion of the energy transition and a pioneer in renewable energy, Germany has the outstanding know-how needed to help Brazil establish a climate-friendly energy mix just when the country is making key decisions that will set the course of its future energy policy. By providing advice and funding and setting up pilot plants for wind power, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power, biogas and energy efficiency, German cooperation is helping to tailor these issues to the Brazilian context and to support the marketability of the relevant technologies in Brazil. In doing so, it is also opening up additional opportunities for German businesses.

Given Brazil’s development successes, triangular cooperation arrangements – to pass on the experience it has gained to third countries – also play a role in cooperation.

The government agencies responsible for Cooperation for Sustainable Development on the German side are the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. The implementing agencies are the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the KfW Development Bank and the National Metrology Institute (PTB).

Relations in the defence sector

Bilateral relations in the defence sector are founded on the Federal Government’s Strategy on Latin America and the Caribbean of August 2010. Based on this, in November 2010 the two countries’ defence ministers signed the German-Brazilian Defence Cooperation Agreement and agreed to step up mutual contacts in this area. The Brazilian Congress approved the agreement in April 2013.

Since 1962, Brazil’s and Germany’s armed forces have maintained regular exchanges of personnel for officer training and further training. Every year, Brazil is offered up to ten places in training courses. These are mainly taken advantage of by the Brazilian army as part of the International General/Admiral Staff Officer Course (LGAI). A total of 90 Brazilian soldiers have completed training courses with the Federal Armed Forces, 59 of them as LGAI participants.

German-Brazilian staff talks at ministry of defence level have been held annually since 2006. Particularly close are relations between the German and Brazilian navies, with annual staff talks being held since 2011.

In 2012, the two countries’ defence ministries agreed to establish an annual programme detailing all scheduled visits and exchange programmes between the two armed forces, which are mainly designed as trust-building measures. The programme has been well received by both sides and is being continually expanded. 

Development cooperation

Brazil is a partner country of German development cooperation. For more information please visit the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

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