United States of America

(USA)
   Portugal and the United States established full and formal diplomatic relations in 1791, and the first commercial treaty between them was signed in 1840. The two very different countries have been linked by geography and by Portuguese immigration to the United States. Both share the status of being Atlantic powers. Significant Portuguese immigration to the eastern seaboard, especially to coastal New England, began in the first half of the 19th century, but the numbers of Lusitanian immigrants reached their peak only after 1910. Although there was relatively little trade between the two countries until after 1880, Portugal's diplomats briefly toyed with the notion of using the United States as a counterweight ally to her oldest ally, Great Britain, especially during the era of bitter territorial and trade disputes between Britain and Portugal over south-central Africa after 1850.
   It was during the 20th century, however, that Luso-American diplomatic relations assumed a new importance, and again the Atlantic connection played a key role. On two occasions during world wars, in 1917-18 and 1944-45, the United States armed forces used the Azores Islands for air and naval bases. In 1951, Portugal and the United States signed the first major Azores base agreements, at first as part of America's Cold War defense strategy needs. The Azores base question has assumed an essential role in the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
   The United States also sponsored Portugal's entry in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). American trade and investment in Portugal increased significantly since the 1940s and, by 1980, the United States had become one of Portugal's main trade partners. By the 1990s, this relationship experienced some changes, as Portugal's membership in the European Union (EU) strengthened the trade positions of EU members such as Britain, Germany, France, and Spain. Luso-American cultural relations, however, including the increasing knowledge of English in Portugal, became closer. Among the factors responsible for this were the presence of a larger American community in Portugal, American investment, the Fulbright exchange program, and American-language schools, whose activity suggested that English taught in British-language schools in Portugal no longer held a clear monopoly.
   See also Azores Islands; Emigration.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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