With the exception of commerce, notably the coffee trade, there was relatively little contact between the countries during the nineteenth century. A convergence of national interests took place during the first decade of the twentieth century and was exemplified in Brazil's strategy of "approximating" its foreign policy to that pursued by the United States. In return, Brazil expected economic gains and diplomatic support for its ambition to be the leading power in South America. But U.S. leaders were cautious and self-serving. Brazil was treated as a special ally, according to Smith, but only at times of major crisis such as the two world wars.
As the twentieth century progressed, friction developed over programs of U.S. financial assistance and efforts to deal with the threat of communism. Recently there have been disagreements over Brazil's determination to take its rightful place as a global economic player and regional leader. Nonetheless history reveals that these two giant nations of the Western Hemisphere share national interests that they realize are best served by maintaining a friendly, cooperative relationship.