President Obama Visits Brazil, Seeks Closer Trading Relationship
President Obama, along with several prominent administration officials, visited Brazil from March 19-20 as part of his first trip to Latin America since taking office. He and his delegation later visited Chile and El Salvador. President Obama met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and a number of Brazilian and U.S. business leaders. In his meetings, President Obama emphasized that the American people recognize and support Brazil's recent successes, including the strong growth in Brazil's economy. He told business leaders that, as part of his jobs strategy, the United States was interested in increasing its exports of goods and services to Brazil's 200 million consumers.
During the trip, officials from the two governments signed a number of significant agreements, including a Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement ("TECA"), which creates a commission to address bilateral trade and economic issues. President Obama stated that TECA is intended to "foster greater dialogue about how we can break down the barriers that still exist between our two nations." USTR Kirk, who will be the U.S. co-chairman of the bilateral commission, will meet at least once a year with his Brazilian counterparts. USTR Kirk stated that Brazil has been a "fairly constrained" market for the United States in the past, but that TECA and an ongoing dialogue could help "really open the doors." USTR Kirk also tied TECA to President Obama's goal of doubling exports between 2010 and 2015, stating that it could be "hugely accretive" in meeting that goal.
Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, who met with American and Brazilian CEOs during the trip, reported that those CEOs would like to see a free trade agreement between the two countries. Secretary Locke stated that a free trade agreement takes a long time to negotiate, but that TECA is a good first step. Secretary Locke emphasized that U.S. exports to Brazil exceeded $50 billion in 2010 and are growing twice as fast as U.S. exports to the rest of the world. Secretary Locke also expressed hope that U.S. companies will be centrally involved in infrastructure projects in Brazil in the near future, including major projects in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Other highlights of the trip included the Agreement on Air Transportation and an associated Memorandum of Consultations on Air Transportation that were signed by President Obama and President Dilma Rousseff. The two countries' leaders also expressed their expectation that the Agreement on Maritime Transport and the Tax Information Exchange Agreement will enter into force in the near future.
Importantly, converging interests in energy-related matters, including in oil, natural gas, biofuels and other renewables received great attention, and the visit created new opportunities for both American and Brazilian businesses. A Working Group on Energy was created, and a Memorandum of Understanding to Advance the Cooperation on Biofuels was signed.