AS/COA Online - First Stop Brasilia: Obama Arrives in South America

While Air Force One carried President Barack Obama to Brazil this morning, the White House released his weekly address, making the case for how economic ties with Latin America can help the United States get a leg up on job creation. “[W]hat is clear is that in an increasingly global economy, our partnership with these nations is only going to become more vital,” said the president. The two South American countries he’s visiting—Brazil and Chile—purchase enough U.S. exports to support 320,000 jobs in the United States, he noted. His remarks echoed his USA Today op-ed from a day earlier in which he estimated that exports to Latin America “will soon support more than 2 million jobs here in the United States.” In a sign of this goal, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Brazilian Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota inked a pact to create a bilateral commission focused on eliminating tariffs and trade barriers. 

Onlookers warn that crises in other parts of the world—from Japan’s earthquake and nuclear emergency to turmoil in the Middle East—could eclipse Obama’s Latin American tour, despite the fact that he led a delegation of roughly 1,000 people to Brazil. But the Obama administration contends that the trip’s timing is justified, given the focus on job creation through economic ties with a prospering region and, in particular, with a large market like Brazil’s. On his first day ever in South America, Obama took part in a U.S.-Brazilian CEO Forum with the stated goal of deepening bilateral economic ties. Still, conflict in Libya cast a shadow over Obama’s arrival, given news that French jets had set off joint attacks Saturday against the Gadaffi regime. The UN Security Council adopted a resolution March 18 imposing a “no-fly zone” over Libya. Brazil, a rotating Security Council member, opted to abstain from the resolution vote.

Libya figured into the joint press conference held by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Obama on March 19. Despite Brazil’s abstention vote, Obama congratulated the country for condemning Libya as a fellow member of the Human Rights Council. He also made a broad statement in reference to Brazilian aspirations for a permanent UN Security Council seat, saying: “[T]he United States will continue our efforts to make sure that the new realities of the twenty-first century are reflected in international institutions … including the United Nations.”

Obama's remarks came after Rousseff's, during which she made a call for a more multilateral world. Rousseff described education and innovation as two issues “central to the future partnerships that we can develop.” She lauded U.S. innovation while highlighting Brazilian technology, including exploration of Brazil’s pre-salt oil deposits. The Brazilian leader also touched on points of differences, asking for reductions of U.S. tariffs affecting Brazilian products and alluding to the “currency war” causing the real’s appreciation compared to the dollar and yuan.

The two leaders came together in several areas, however, including the trade cooperation accord. They signed a memorandum that seeks to deepen educational exchanges at the university-level and between research institutions focusing on science and technology. Another memorandum focuses on U.S. cooperation around major sporting events, with an eye to Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Obama and Rousseff also “reaffirmed their commitment” to an action plan focused on racial equality and social inclusion, and came together on aviation biofuels, Haitian reconstruction, and technical cooperation in other countries.

Joint statements, remarks, and agreements

Resources to learn more about President Obama’s visit to Brazil

  • The Brazilian presidency’s blog.
  • U.S. Embassy in Brazil website. The Embassy also set up a page with a social media focus covering Obama’s visit.
  • White House Fact Sheet on the U.S.-Brazil Economic Relationship.
  • CEO Forum website.
  • First Lady Michelle Obama’s remarks at Brazilian Cultural Youth Event.
  • Follow Presidents Rousseff (@dilmabr) and Obama (@barackobama) on Twitter.