US President Barack Obama, in a show of support for Brazil’s rising global economic power, said the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy can serve as a model for pro-democracy movements around the world, including in North Africa and the Middle East.
Brazil is “a country that shows democracy delivers both freedom and opportunity to its people,” Obama told a crowd on Sunday at Rio de Janeiro’s century-old Municipal Theater. “A country that shows how a call for change that starts in the streets can transform a city, transform a country, transform a world.”
Obama arrived in Brazil March 19 to kick off a five- day tour of Latin America the same day that an international coalition began military action against forces loyal to Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi. As Obama spoke in Rio, the military operation escalated with anti-aircraft fire heard in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
The crisis in North Africa has overshadowed Obama’s trip, as he’s had to juggle demands including national security briefings with official events and sightseeing. A planned press conference with President Dilma Rousseff was scrapped, allowing the two leaders to avoid questions about Brazil’s abstention in the United Nations Security Council vote last week authorizing air strikes against Libya.
Even so Obama used Sunday’s speech to compare the development of free markets in Brazil since the end of the country’s last dictatorship in 1985 to the wave of democratic uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.
“As two nations who have struggled over many generations to perfect our own democracies, the United States and Brazil know that the future of the Arab world will be determined by its people,” Obama said.
After spending his first day in Brazilian capital Brasília discussing trade and economic relations with Brazil’s first female president and a group of business executives, Sunday’s speech was meant to deliver a broader message to the Brazilian people that underscored shared values between the two countries.
“For so long, you were called a country of the future, told to wait for a better day that was always just around the corner,” Obama said. “Meus amigos, that day has finally come. And this is a country of the future no more. The people of Brazil should know the future has arrived. It is here now.”
Earlier in the day, Obama and his wife, Michelle, and their daughters Malia and Sasha visited a favela, shantytown. Arriving in the City of God favela, the first family took in a performance of capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art, and afterwards kicked around a soccer ball, with Obama noting that Brazilians are the “best soccer players in the world.”
Later they visited the city’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.
Obama’s tour continues Monday in Chile, where he’ll meet with President Sebastian Piñera before heading Tuesday to El Salvador en route to Washington March 23.
Chile was the first nation in South America to sign a free trade agreement with the U.S., in 2003. Since then, as in Brazil and other parts of South America, China has been making inroads. China’s demand for copper allowed it to surpass the US to become the country’s biggest export market in 2007. Chile is the world’s biggest producer of the metal.
Same as China and India
Addressing the Brazilian Industry Federation, in Brasília President Barack Obama emphasized the possibilities for partnership between the two countries mentioning trade, energy, infrastructure and education.
The US leader said that “the future has arrived in Brazil” and promised the US would deal with the country in the same way it does with China and India.
Obama started by saying that being in Brazil was a great joy, and thanking his hosts on behalf of his wife Michelle and family for the warm welcome they received.
The US president said it was a pity that he had to come only days after the Carnaval but: “My only regret is that we missed the party by coming a few weeks after Carnaval. Maybe that’s the best – since I’m not sure I would have had the same level of productivity from my staff”.
Obama pointed out that in the last two centuries, there was never such a promising moment for Brazil, and pointed out that the country is now the seventh largest economy worldwide and achieved stability in the last few years.
“So what has been accomplished here in Brazil is nothing short of remarkable”, said Obama to the audience of businessmen. “It’s often been said that Brazil is a country for the future. Well, that future has now arrived”.
Among the areas for partnership between the two countries, Obama mentioned bilateral trade, which would create jobs in both countries. “So there is no question that the United States and Brazil benefit from the economic ties we’ve developed over the years”.
To make this partnership even better, Obama said that he and President Rousseff would establish a new dialogue making possible that the US deals with Brazil in the same way that it deals with China and India. That statement was received with a loud ovation by the audience.
Obama also spoke about energy. “The oil you recently discovered off the shores of Brazil could amount to twice the reserves we have in the United States”, he said, adding that the US want to help Brazil with the technology needed to extract it and, when Brazil is ready to begin selling the commodity, “we want to be one of your best customers”.
Obama also said that the two countries are expanding their cooperation on bio fuels.
Another point dealt with by Obama was infrastructure. He mentioned the World Soccer Cup of 2014, to be hosted by Brazil -“the only nation that’s a five-time champion — although the US is getting better, you have to admit. We’re getting better”- and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
And, although claiming to be sad for Rio having defeated his hometown Chicago, he said that his country does not want to just watch from the stands.
“US companies stand ready to help you meet this challenge”, for instance in the engineering and construction fields.
Brazil and the United States agreed to boost future cooperation on a range of key issues including trade and energy. The agreements were signed on the first day of US President Barack Obama’s two-day visit to Brazil, where he met with Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff. They include TECA, a trade and economic cooperation agreement with a road map for future negotiations.
The United States seeks to be “a strategic energy partner” to Brazil, which recently discovered major new offshore oil reserves. Obama said the United States wants to be one of Brazil’s “best customers” when the oil starts flowing.
Both nations also will increase cooperation on producing bio fuels with a specific separate agreement to team up on developing bio fuels for aviation.
Washington will provide US$ 1 billion in financing for infrastructure projects in Brazil’s oil sector via the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Other financing will go toward joint projects between U.S. and Brazilian companies in third countries, mainly in Africa.
A separate deal will seek to improve cooperation on infrastructure and security at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, which Brazil will host.
The countries signed a Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement, or TECA, which establishes a road map for future trade negotiations. The deal has been a major goal of diplomats for years, but progress was halted in 2010 when relations between the United States and Brazil soured over Iran.
The leaders agreed the U.N. Security Council should undergo “modest” expansion. Brazilians had been hopeful Obama would voice clear support for their campaign for a permanent council seat but the statement instead offered more timid “appreciation” from Obama for these aspirations.
International financial institutions should be modernized to reflect changes in the world economy, a joint statement said. There should be more transparency in commodity markets and improved regulation of price-setting mechanisms. The presidents expressed “strong commitment” to the conclusion of the Doha round of trade talks at the World Trade Organization.
The two nations signed a deal on cooperation for peaceful uses of outer space and proposed a working group to collaborate on satellite monitoring of Earth. U.S. officials have said they hope to eventually gain greater use of a Brazilian launch facility near the equator.
No Backing for UN Security Council
US President Barack Obama heralded Brazil’s “extraordinary” rise on the world stage but stopped short of backing its bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
At the start of a five-day trip to Latin America Saturday in Latin America, Obama told a joint briefing with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff that his visit was a historic opportunity to strengthen US ties with the region’s largest economy.
“Brazil’s extraordinary rise, Madam President, has captured the attention of the world,” he said. “Put simply, the United states doesn’t simply recognize Brazil’s rise. We support it enthusiastically.”
Obama said he wants to ensure a bigger US share in Latin America’s robust economic growth. Boosting US exports helps create jobs back home and will aid his 2012 presidential re-election hope.
Rousseff struck a more confrontational tone, and cited the need for a “relationship of equals” as Brazil’s clout in global affairs grows with its economy.
She barely looked at Obama during her remarks, and focused largely on issues that divide the two nations such as trade and the US decision to print money to aid its economic recovery, a move that has hurt Brazil as capital flows make its currency overvalued.
“In the past, our relations were often characterized by empty rhetoric that papered over what was really at stake between us,” she said, citing US agricultural subsidies and a tariff on Brazilian ethanol as barriers to be torn down.
“I am equally concerned with the slow pace of the reforms in the multilateral institutions that still reflect an old world,” she said.
Brazil believes its greater diplomatic and economic clout have earned it a permanent Security Council seat. Rousseff said this was not about “a minor interest of bureaucratic occupation of spaces,” but because she thinks it will produce better results in the search for peace.
In a joint statement, Obama and Rousseff said they recognized the need to reform international institutions to reflect the “current political and economic realities.”
But Washington did not explicitly back Brazil’s aspirations for a permanent UN Security Council seat, as he did for India when visiting New Delhi in November.
“President Obama expressed appreciation for Brazil’s aspiration to become a permanent member of the Security Council,” the statement said.
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