Last updated in February 2014

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 and labour and social affairs as well as human rights. With funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Federal Government’s International Climate Initiative, Germany is working together with Brazil to protect the tropical forest in Amazonia 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.

There are numerous contacts between non-governmental organisations in the two countries.

Mutual visits by politicians are frequent. Federal Chancellor Merkel visited Brazil in May 2008, signing the Strategic Partnership Action Plan and an agreement on energy. President Lula paid an official visit to Germany in December 2009. In March 2012, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel jointly opened the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover, at which Brazil was the Partner Country.

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 are presenting a comprehensive picture of Germany as a modern, cosmopolitan and multi-facetedcountry.

The numerous visits by government ministers as well as at parliamentary and regional government level contribute to the close dialogue and cooperation between the two sides.

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 in recent months by close bilateral cooperation on cybersecurity issues, in particular protecting privacy in the digital age – a joint resolution to this effect was presented by Germany and Brazil to the United Nations General Assembly. 

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 growing population. Brazil is Germany’s most important Latin American trading partner. After a temporary decline due to the economic and monetary crisis, bilateral trade has picked up again since 2009. In 2012, German exports to Brazil were worth approximately EUR 11.69 billion, an increase of 4.7 per cent compared with 2011. German imports from Brazil fell by 5.7 per cent in 2012 compared with the previous year, to EUR 10.62 billion, putting Brazil in 20th place among countries importing goods from Germany and in 21st place among exporters to Germany. According to Federal Statistical Office figures, in 2012 Germany recorded a balance of trade surplus of EUR 1.07 billion (though there are some not inconsiderable discrepancies between German and Brazilian statistics on account of the so-called “Rotterdam effect”). No official figures are yet available for 2013. According to Brazilian statistics, the volume of trade has remained at about the same level, with an even bigger balance of trade surplus in Germany’s favour.

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 and pharmaceuticals.

In 2012, German direct investment in Brazil was worth an estimated USD 2.03 billion, bringing aggregate German direct investment – including reinvestment – to more than USD 27 billion. There are some 1,400 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 very limited but is on the increase. 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, with smaller offices in cities like Recife, as well as a correspondent of Germany Trade & Invest (gtai) in São Paulo. These 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 Mixed Commission on Economic Cooperation is scheduled to coincide with the Economic Meeting.

The 31st German-Brazilian Economic Meeting was held in São Paulo from 12 to 14 May 2013 under the motto “German-Brazilian Cooperation to Strengthen Competitiveness”.It attracted more than 2,000 visitors, a record number. A high point of the event were the speeches by Federal President Joachim Gauck and Brazilian President Dilma Roussef. The 32nd German-Brazilian Economic Meeting is to be held on 1 and 2 September 2014 in Hamburg. Both at these meetings and at various foreign trade fairs, there is evidence of growing Brazilian interest in German future-oriented technologies in sectors such as transport, urban development, 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 keen to cooperate with Germany. A cultural agreement was concluded in 1969 and a supplementary agreement on the status of cultural intermediaries in 2005. German cultural intermediaries continue to face problems, however, because of the lack of a valid double taxation agreement.

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 have been given considerable new momentum by the Year of Germany in Brazil 2013/2014. The programme, which ends in May 2014, has already featured more than 800 events across the country. Besides numerous new projects – including a variety of exhibitions, concert tours by German symphony and chamber orchestras 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 already existing cooperation projects. In October 2013, Brazil was the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair with its varied support programme.

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).

German as a foreign language has a relatively strong standing. German is seen as an important European language and, increasingly, as a key to professional and academic success. In recent years, the number of Brazilians learning German has been steadily growing. Where German as a foreign language is offered, demand outstrips the resources available. German as a foreign language is taught as a regular subject at state schools almost exclusively in the south of the country. One problem is the lack of qualified local teachers.

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 11,000 mainly Brazilian students, the Porto Seguro School in São Paulo is the largest German School Abroad worldwide.

There are also some 17 schools at which German instruction enjoys priority as part of cooperation on education and where the German Language Diploma (DSD) can be obtained. Twenty-two public and private schools have joined the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH) and offer German as a foreign language in combination with interesting projects for students.Every year, more than 2,000 students take the DSD language tests and approximately 750 participate in exchange programmes with Germany. The Central Agency for Schools Abroad has regional offices in São Paulo and Porto Alegre, serving over a hundred municipal schools in southern Brazil that offer German instruction.

Brazil is now the most important partner of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Latin America, and Germany is Brazil’s third most important partner after the United States and the United Kingdom. The DAAD (rio.daad.de) cooperates at national and regional level with a view to enabling joint degrees and doctorates. Among the most important exchange programmes conducted by the DAAD in cooperation with its Brazilian partners is the scholarship programme for Brazilian PhD students. Since 1993, more than 16,000 students, scientists and academics have taken advantage of DAAD scholarship programmes. The DAAD also plays a key role in implementing Brazil’s mobility programme Science Without Borders. The idea is to enable more than 100,000 Brazilian undergraduates, PhD students and young researchers to study and pursue research abroad by the end of 2014, including 10,000 at German universities and research institutions. There are 30 DAAD language assistants working at higher education institutions in Brazil providing preparatory language instruction to scholarship holders, as well as language courses at German universities.

There are currently ten academic teachers seconded by the DAAD working in Brazil (in Belém, Fortaleza, Recife, São Paulo, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte) who also provide student counselling 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 434 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 more than 40 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 the German-Brazilian Year of Science, Technology and Innovation 2010/11 and the establishment of the German House of Science and Innovation in São Paulo, Germany has succeeded in further enhancing its presence in Brazil. Well over 100 events were held during the Year of Science, Technology and Innovation, resulting in a closer networking of the two countries’ innovation systems. The DAAD, the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) as well as 14 higher education institutions and one non-academic institution are represented 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. The German-Brazilian Year of Science, Technology and Innovation 2010/11 is currently being followed up by the Germany Year in Brazil 2013/14, which was opened by Federal President Gauck in May 2013 in Rio de Janeiro and also includes an extensive scientific programme.

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 400 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), the AvH and the Leopoldina (www.leopoldina.org).

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

  • DINARIO (including Cologne University of Applied Sciences, the Universities of Leipzig, Jena and Bonn, EMBRAPA): an integrated concept for the conservation and sustainable use of Brazil’s coastal rain forest
  • BRAGECRIM (including the DFG): 30 scientific institutions in both countries 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
  • CarBioCiol (including the Universities of Göttingen, Hanover, Hamburg, Kassel, Freiberg and Berlin – the Humboldt University and the Free University –, 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

There are further cooperation projects in the area of marine research, the aerospace sector andagricultural 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

German-Brazilian cooperation for sustainable development focuses on jointly addressing global problems, in particular combating climate and protecting biodiversity. Priority areas of cooperation are therefore the protection and sustainable use of the tropical forest in Amazonia and promoting renewable energy/energy efficiency. In these areas, Germany is Brazil’s principal bilateral partner. The area of renewable energy and energy efficiency – in which many specialised German companies are active – alsooffers potential synergies for industry. Given Brazil’s development successes, triangular cooperation arrangements – to pass on the experience it has gained to third countries – are playing an increasing role in cooperation. The implementing agencies of German government cooperation in Brazil are the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the National Metrology Institute (PTB), the KfW Development Bank and the. Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG)

In addition to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany’s Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) has, since 2008, also been engaged in bilateral cooperation with Brazil as part of the Federal Government’s International Climate Initiative.

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 79 Brazilian soldiers have completed training courses with the Federal Armed Forces, 56 of them as participants of the LGAI.

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