Top 10 Countries the U.S. Owes Money To

A glimpse of the Sao Paulo city center. Brazil is the world's sixth largest economy. iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Creditor Name: Brazil

Amount of U.S. Debt Owned (January 2013): $253.4 billion

Percent of U.S Public Debt (January 2013): 2.2 percent

Technically, "oil-exporting nations" are ranked as owning the fourth-largest chunk, or 2.3 percent, of American debt. That 15-country collective includes Algeria, Bahrain, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. But if we examine U.S. public debt on a country-by-country basis, Brazil wins the No. 4 spot handily [source: Congressional Budget Office].

According to the World Bank, Brazil is the world's sixth-largest economy. Its explosive economic growth has been fueled by aggressive investment by the Chinese. Starting in 2010, China signed lucrative trade agreements with Brazil to buy massive amounts of raw materials like iron ore and crude oil [source: Pomfret]. In addition to exporting natural resources, Chinese firms have built huge factories, farms and manufacturing plants on Brazilian soil.

After recording an impressive growth rate of 7.5 percent in 2010 — while the rest of world was still emerging from the recession — the Brazilian economy is finally showing signs of slowing. The growth rate for 2013 is expected to be a humble 3.2 percent, due in part to China's own cooling economy [source: Boyle].