Reuters | Tue Jul 21, 2009
Obama touts trade in meeting with Brazil official
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he wants stronger ties with Brazil, especially in the commercial area, a top aide and possible successor to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said.
"He made what I consider a very strong and important statement," Lula’s chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, speaking through a translator, said at the end of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, which brings together top U.S. business and top government officials from each country.
Rousseff, who is Lula’s preferred candidate in Brazil’s 2010 presidential election, said Obama dropped in on her and other forum participants during a meeting in the office of White House national security adviser Jim Jones.
The forum consists of 10 business leaders each from the United States and Brazil, who meet at least once every six months to make recommendations to the two governments on how to expand trade and investment ties.
Bilateral trade between the two countries reached about $63.4 billion in 2008. The United States enjoyed a rare, but small, surplus with its llth largest trading partner.
Tim Solso, president of Cummins Inc and the U.S. co-chairman of the forum, said the participants urged the two countries to begin talks on a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement as a stepping stone to a broader trade pact.
White House deputy national security adviser Michael Froman said the two governments would explore that possibility, but had not made any decision yet.
Brazil’s Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Miguel Jorge also participated in the forum, along with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
The two sides discussed progress on bilateral tax and investment treaties, as well as ways the two countries could cooperate on developing renewable energy source and addressing global climate change, officials said.
The CEOs recommended the United States eliminate its tariff on ethanol imports, a move that would benefit Brazil but face strong opposition from U.S. corn growers and their proponents in Congress, such as Senator Charles Grassley.
The government and business leaders called for conclusion of the long-running Doha round of world trade talks.
Froman denied the United States was dragging its feet in those negotiations, as some diplomats at World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva have complained.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has been "very active and engaged," including meeting this week in Singapore with trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific region, he said.
Rousseff blamed the slowdown in the talks on the global financial crisis, rather than the Obama administration.
"I believe that we’ll sooner or later continue to an updated variant of the Doha round ... I’m not pessimistic about the situation," Rousseff said.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)