US boosts Brazil status as military ally

Brazil will join Egypt, Israel, New Zealand and Taiwan as a major Non-Nato Ally of the United States (AFP Photo/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)

Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday boosted Brazil's status as a US military ally, easing the path for the Latin American giant to buy more sophisticated weaponry.

In a notice sent to the State Department, Trump said, "I hereby designate the Federative Republic of Brazil as a major Non-NATO Ally of the United States," referring to the powerful North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Countries with Non-NATO Ally status enjoy a higher level of trust with Washington, allowing them priority access to the US weapons market and bolstering military-to-military ties.

Egypt, Israel, New Zealand and Taiwan are among other allies of the United States already in the group.

Trump had already declared in May that he intended to give Brazil the status.

The Republican president is forging close links with Brazil's new right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has been dubbed the Trump of Brazil since his surprise election last year.

Brazil is Latin America's most populous country and biggest economy, but mired in corruption and soaring rates of violent crime. Bolsonaro is also under criticism for what environmental groups say is a rapidly growing assault by miners, loggers and others on the Amazon rainforest.

On Tuesday, Trump said his administration is working with Brazil, a major producer of raw materials and farm products, on a new free trade agreement that would lower tariffs.

Last year, Washington threatened to impose tariffs on Brazilian steel and aluminum, but later granted an exemption.