(Reuters) - The United States has asked Brazil to consider lifting tariffs imposed on its ethanol exports and is hopeful of a positive outcome, a senior official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday.
Brazil currently charges a 20-percent tariff on ethanol imports surpassing 150 million liters a quarter, in a bid to shield local farmers from foreign competition.
“Our hope is that the warm relations that exist between our presidents and how that cascades down might let us find some relief,” Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney said on a conference call from Brasilia.
McKinney and U.S. chief agricultural negotiator Gregg Doud have been in Brazil to hold talks with Brazilian government officials. McKinney said he was optimistic for change, although so far Brazil has not indicated that they would lift the tariffs.
McKinney said Brazil had previously said it would reassess the tariffs two years from the September 2017 date on which they were imposed. “You can imagine there’s always run-ups to that. Nobody said it is a hard date and that’s another reason we are having a discussion,” he said.
The U.S. delegation was set to meet with the Brazilian ministry of agriculture, he said.
Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former army captain and admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump, has quickly deepened ties with the Unites States and Israel.
Bolsonaro said last year that he would like to see Brazil retake global leadership in ethanol production, which it lost to the United States some years ago.
Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Sandra Maler and Rosalba O'Brien