Last updated May 2019
Brazil is the only Latin American country with which Germany has enjoyed a strategic partnership since 2008. This strategic partnership is principally concerned with further expanding cooperation on bilateral and multilateral issues. The first intergovernmental consultations in August 2015, for which Federal Chancellor Merkel and 12 Cabinet members (or their deputies) travelled to Brasília, were a landmark event in efforts to strengthen relations.
Cooperation between the two countries is wide-ranging, covering areas such as energy, the environment, climate, science and research, business and trade, defence, labour and social affairs, as well as cooperation in the United Nations and on human rights. With funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Federal Environment Ministry’s International Climate Initiative, Germany and Brazil are working in particular to protect the tropical forests and promote renewable energies and energy efficiency. Both countries attach particular importance to scientific, technological and cultural exchange. The large number of Germans emigrating to Brazil throughout history has had a positive impact on cooperation.
Brazil and Germany work together on numerous issues on the international agenda, in particular the reform of the United Nations, including the enlargement of the Security Council to include 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 and the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. This has been complemented by close bilateral cooperation on urbanisation and cyber policy.
Brazil is Germany’s most important trading partner in Latin America. Bilateral trade in both directions gained impetus in the past two decades, with a temporary decline due to the economic and financial crisis. This growth has recently slowed down again. German exports to Brazil were worth some 9.5 billion euros in 2018, representing an increase of 10.5 percent compared to the previous year. Germany’s imports from Brazil in 2018 stood at 7.4 billion euros, down 6.3 percent from the previous year. In 2018, Brazil was thus amongst Germany’s 30 most important trading partners. According to Federal Statistical Office figures, Germany had a trade surplus with Brazil of more than two billion euros in 2018.
Brazil’s main exports to Germany are iron ore, soya and soya products, coffee and coffee products, car parts, civil aircraft, machinery, meat, copper and crude oil. Brazil’s main imports from Germany are machinery, cars and car parts, chemical precursors, pharmaceutical products and electrical and metal goods.
German direct investment in Brazil – including reinvestment – amounts to more than 20 billion euros. There are over 1300 German-Brazilian companies employing a total workforce of approximately 250,000 people in Brazil. São Paulo has one of the largest concentrations of German business worldwide. Brazilian direct investment in Germany has so far been fairly limited.
In Brazil, the German business community can avail itself of the services of the German-Brazilian Chambers of Commerce and Industry based in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre, as well as a Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) correspondent in São Paulo. The chambers provide information and advice for German exporters and investors. To strengthen bilateral economic relations, the German-Brazilian Economic Meeting is held annually with 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 coincides with the Economic Meeting. The 36th German-Brazilian Economic Meeting took place in Cologne in June 2018. The next meeting will be held in Natal (Rio Grande do Norte) in September 2019. Both at these meetings and at various foreign trade fairs, Brazil has shown a keen interest in German future-oriented technologies in sectors such as transport, infrastructure, urban development, health, renewable energies, energy efficiency and climate protection.
Culture and education
Cooperation focuses on promoting German as a foreign language, special consideration being given to the German Schools, cultural programme work and scientific and academic exchange.
The Goethe-Institut network in Brazil encompasses five institutes (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Porto Alegre and Curitiba) as well as the Goethe-Zentrum in Brasília. The focus is on language work, backed up by extensive programme work. German-Brazilian cultural societies make a valuable 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 German Schools in Brazil which enable students to gain the German higher education entrance qualification (Abitur): three in São Paulo and one in Rio de Janeiro. There are around 50 public and private schools in Brazil belonging to the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH) that offer German as a foreign language. German is increasingly seen in Brazil as a key to professional and academic success. At the 2015 German-Brazilian intergovernmental consultations, Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Brazil’s Education Minister signed a joint declaration of intent on promoting the teaching of German as a foreign language at Brazilian schools. An annual German Language Week has been held throughout Brazil since 2016.
Many German universities have their own cooperation agreements with Brazilian universities. Some 61 formalised higher education partnerships also constitute an important institutional basis for student exchange. In the 2017/18 winter semester, there were a total of 4000 Brazilians studying at German higher education institutions.
Brazil is a partner country of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and has been one of Germany’s principal cooperation partners in the area of higher education for decades. The DAAD has a branch office in Rio de Janeiro, an Information Centre in São Paulo, a long-term lectureship in political science in São Paulo, a network of six language and eleven teaching assistants and eight lectorships. In addition to teaching, the lectors also provide student advice services and promote Germany as a study and research destination.
To provide preparatory language instruction for studying in Germany and to give new impetus to the basic and further training of German teachers in Brazil, the DAAD and Brazil’s Ministry of Education jointly launched the programme Languages Without Borders – German in 2016. The main aims of the programme are to create distance learning opportunities (including online courses as well as blended learning courses supported by the German teaching assistants), develop a nationwide system for online testing that allows Brazilian students to take accredited German examinations and expedite the establishment of German language centres at Brazil’s universities. The programme is being offered at 14 Brazilian universities. In addition, the DAAD played a major role in implementing the Science Without Borders mobility programme. From 2011 to 2016, Brazil provided around 90,000 scholarships for studying and research abroad through this programme, while Germany received some 6500 Brazilian undergraduates, PhD students and young researchers. The scholarship programme was discontinued at the end of June 2016 because of spending cuts by the Brazilian Government. The new PRINT programme is focused on promoting the internationalisation of 40 Brazilian universities, with emphasis on postgraduate programmes.
With political initiatives such as the German-Brazilian Year of Science, Technology and Innovation in 2010/11, the Germany Year in Brazil in 2013/14 and the establishment of the German Centre for Research and Innovation in São Paulo, Germany has succeeded in further enhancing its presence in Brazil and giving fresh impetus to cooperation.
The German Centre for Research and Innovation in São Paulo (DWIH‑SP), which brings German funding organisations, research institutions and universities together under one roof, has received funding from the Federal Foreign Office since 2009 (www.dwih.com.br). DWIH-SP, which is managed by the DAAD, provides information on German science and research and promotes cooperation with innovative German organisations and companies. It organises a conference each year on scientifically relevant issues. Last year’s conference focused on the bioeconomy, while this year German and Brazilian academics will discuss new forms of work in a digital world.
Brazil has become a highly regarded partner in project‑related cooperation. In addition to bilateral cooperation between research institutions and universities, organisations that are particularly active in Brazil include the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation), the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Max Planck Society, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Examples of outstanding bilateral research projects include the 320‑metre‑high Amazonian Tall Tower Observatory, which was set up by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, with co‑funding from Brazil, to collect data to analyse the climatic function of the rainforest, and the BRAGECRIM research network, in which over 300 researchers from over 30 German and Brazilian universities, research institutions and industry partners have been pursuing the development of sustainable and innovative production technologies since 2009. BRAGECRIM is funded on the German side by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG).
Since April 2017, bilateral academic education and research in the social sciences and humanities has been enhanced on a long‑term basis by the opening of the Centre for German and European Studies (CGES) at two prestigious universities in Porto Alegre – the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) and the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) – as well as by the establishment of the Maria Sibylla Merian Centre Latin America in São Paulo. The former is funded by the Federal Foreign Office, and the latter by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The Maria Sibylla Merian Centre Latin America, which is led by an international consortium comprised of three German partners (Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Cologne and the Ibero‑American Institute) and four Latin American partners (Universidade de São Paulo, the Brazilian Centre of Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP), Universidad Nacional de La Plata and El Colegio de México), aims to investigate various forms of social, political, religious and cultural coexistence in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Brazil is the world’s most biodiverse country and the Amazon rainforest is the biggest carbon sink worldwide. Although a large portion of Brazil’s energy already comes from climate-friendly, renewable energy sources, Brazil’s wealth of resources such as water, wind, sun and biomass offers huge further potential for environmentally friendly energy generation. In short, Brazil is a country of outstanding importance for protecting biodiversity and stabilising the climate. Brazil’s national policies in these areas are of global relevance and Brazil has also set itself ambitious targets here at the international level – most recently with its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Climate Agreement.
For its part, Germany is a world leader in this area with its innovative climate and environmental technology, its energy transition and its efforts to build a green economy. Germany is highly committed to sustainable development on an international scale, in particular protecting the climate and preserving biodiversity. That is why Germany’s development cooperation with Brazil focuses on jointly addressing precisely these global issues. Priority areas of the two countries’ extensive cooperation on sustainable development – Germany is the largest bilateral donor in Brazil – are the protection and sustainable use of the tropical forest and the promotion of renewable energies and energy Efficiency.
Covering 4.8 million km², Brazil’s tropical forests make up approximately ten percent 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 hydrological cycles. Since the 1990s, Germany has been cooperating with Brazil to preserve the country’s tropical forests and its current engagement includes protected areas management, land and land rights issues, the sustainable use (production and marketing) of natural resources, forest restoration, management of indigenous areas and climate funding as part of REDD+.
By providing advice and funding and setting up pilot plants for wind power, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power, biogas and energy efficiency, Germany is helping to establish a climate-friendly energy mix in Brazil. In line with the joint declaration on the establishment of a German-Brazilian urbanisation partnership, which was adopted at the intergovernmental consultations, attention is increasingly focusing on energy-efficient and sustainable urban development.
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 armed forces of Brazil and Germany have maintained good and close relations since 1962.
As part of military training assistance, Germany offers an annual contingent of training places in Germany to members of the Brazilian military. There is also a lively exchange between the two countries in terms of expertise and personnel. The focus here is on training for company commanders; every year, one or two general staff officers from all branches of the Brazilian forces undergo general staff officers’ training at the Federal Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Hamburg.
The Bilateral Annual Programme, which has been in place since 2012 as part of confidence-building, encompasses 14 coordinated measures in 2019. They relate to issues of security policy, general operational command and command support, the conduct of projects in different branches of the armed forces, medical services and training. Under the programme, there are regular exchanges of personnel and experience in the field of training and further training for officers and NCOs..
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.