RIO DE JANEIRO, March 20 President Barack Obama
made a strong pitch for the Boeing F-18 jet fighter in a
meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, but she did
not indicate if her government had decided to buy the U.S.-made
plane, the White House said on Sunday.
"The F-18 issue did come up. President Rousseff raised it,"
White House aide Dan Restrepo told reporters in Rio de Janeiro,
referring to the leaders' bilateral meeting in Brasilia on
Saturday that kicked off Obama's five-day Latin American tour.
Brazil is weighing a multi-billion dollar bid to modernize
its air force, and Obama has made promoting exports to boost
U.S. jobs back home a central part of his trip to Brazil, Chile
and El Salvador.
"President Obama underscored that the F-18 is the best
plane on offer ... in that the technology transfer package ...
is equivalent to the packages that are offered to partners and
allies around the world," said Restrepo, Obama's top Latin
One factor in Brazil's decision will be Washington's
willingness to authorize transfers of proprietary technology,
which would help Brazil develop its own defense industry.
The F-18's main competition is seen coming from the French
Rafale fighter jet of Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA), which had
been favored by Rousseff's predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da
Silva. Saab (SAABb.ST) is also a bidder and said last month it
hoped for a Brazilian decision during 2011.
The Brazilian contract will likely be worth much more than
the initial bids, which have been reported by Brazilian media
to be in a $4-$6 billion range. Maintenance contracts will be
lucrative, and Brazil could eventually buy more than 100
Rousseff's surprise decision in January to restart the
bidding process for the tender was one of the earliest signs of
the pro-U.S. shift under her administration. Obama hopes during
his visit to capitalize on the improvement in U.S.-Brazilian
ties after sometimes tense relations with Lula.
(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Paul Simao)