Business hopes for momentum from U.S.-Brazil summit

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 5, 2012 6:43pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. companies hope a White House meeting on Monday between President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will energize an economic relationship seen performing below its potential and lay the groundwork for future trade talks.

"We for a long time at the U.S. Chamber (of Commerce) have felt that we need to have much more bold and ambitious agenda with Brazil," Jodi Bond, the business group's vice president for the Americas, told reporters on Thursday.

"The rest of the world has been very focused on Brazil, both East and West," Bond said. "We need to do more."

Brazil is the second largest economy in the Western Hemisphere and the sixth largest economy in the world, but only the eighth largest U.S. trading partner.

Two-way trade last year totaled about $74 billion, compared to $503 billion between the United States and China.

U.S. business hopes Rousseff's visit will prompt action by both countries to loosen visa restrictions that impede business and tourist travel, and increase cooperation in areas such as civilian aviation, Bond said.

She acknowledged the meeting was unlikely to produce a more dramatic announcement the two sides are launching talks on free trade agreement, a longtime U.S. Chamber of Commerce goal.

But U.S. companies hope the two sides can begin taking steps toward a free trade pact by tackling smaller agreements on tax and investment, Bond said.

Meanwhile, the United States will be able to show it has made progress on some of Brazil's trade concerns.

In the year since Obama visited Brazil to meet with Rousseff, the U.S. Congress has let a long-time tariff on ethanol imports lapse and renewed an expired program known as U.S. Generalized System of Preferences that waives duties on many goods from Brazil and other developing countries.

Last month, the U.S. International Trade Commission also voted to lift long-time anti-dumping duties on frozen concentrated orange juice from Brazil, saying it no longer saw a threat to U.S. producers from the imports.

Rousseff will speak to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday after her meeting with Obama.

"We would love to have her saying the Brazilian government is open to tackling the U.S. issues in Brazil," said Deigo Zancan Bonomo, senior policy director at the Brazil-U.S. Business Council, housed at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Those include more flexibility on local content requirements for companies participating in Brazil's oil and gas sector, reduced barriers to Brazil's reinsurance market and work by Brazil to modernize its customs procedures, he said.

"We would also love to see more deals, particularly in the case of military aircraft," Bonomo said, referring to a possible sale of Boeing (BA.N) F-18 fighters to Brazil as well as smaller sale by Brazilian planemaker Embraer (EMBR3.SA) of Super Tucano jets to the United States.

Both Rousseff and Obama will travel later next week to Cartagena, Colombia for the sixth Summit of the Americas meeting since 1994.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants the 34 regional leaders to embrace initiatives to "double down on trade," ease the movement of people across borders and increase hemispheric energy production, Bond said.

The business group also hopes for news on implementation of U.S. free trade pacts with Colombia and Panama that were passed by Congress last year, but still not in force, she said.

(Reporting By Doug Palmer, editing by Jackie Frank)

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