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The focus will be business when Obama arrives in Brasilia

Economic opportunities between the United States and Brazil will be the focus of the first leg of President Barack Obama’s trip to Latin America

   U.S. and Brazilian security officers inspect an area where President Barack Obama is expected to visit in the slum Cidade de Deus, or City of God, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Obama is scheduled to visit Brazil on March 19 and 20 as part of a Latin American tour that also includes Chile and El Salvador.
U.S. and Brazilian security officers inspect an area where President Barack Obama is expected to visit in the slum Cidade de Deus, or City of God, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Obama is scheduled to visit Brazil on March 19 and 20 as part of a Latin American tour that also includes Chile and El Salvador.

Felipe Dana / AP

The Florida-Brazil Connection

Year Florida Exports to Brazil

2005 $3.06 billion

2006 $3.7 billion

2007 $3.96 billion

2008 $4.92 billion

2009 $4.29 billion

2010 $4.72 billion

When President Barack Obama arrives in Brasilia on Saturday for the opening leg of his Latin American trip, the emphasis will be on the economic relationship between Brazil and the United States and the potential business opportunities the world’s seventh largest economy offers.

At a White House briefing Tuesday, Mike Froman, deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs, noted Brazil’s 7.5 percent economic growth last year, its $80 billion trading relationship with the United States and the fact that U.S. exports to Brazil have doubled over the past five years.

“Fully half of its population is now considered middle class, and that creates a great opportunity for us to engage and sell our products there and have a deeper economic relationship,’’ Froman said.

Brazil is Florida’s largest trading partner with two-way of $4.7 billion last year.

Obama will begin the day Saturday with conversations with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at her Planalto office and is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the U.S.-Brazil Business Summit at a Brasilia hotel in the afternoon. Rousseff, who took office Jan. 1, also has been invited to speak.

The invitation-only event will bring together 300 top executives from corporations such as Exxon Mobil, GE, Coca Cola, Bank of America and Comcast on the U.S side and Brazilian giants Odebrecht, Embraer, JBS and Vale.

One of the aims of the summit is to “reset the commercial agenda with a new Brazilian president and unleash the potential of the U.S.-Brazilian relationship over the next four years,’’ said Steven Bipes, executive director of the Brazil-U.S. Business Council, which is organizing the event and is an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The summit will explore business opportunities in the energy and infrastructure industries.

Before the summit, the two presidents will join a meeting of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, whose members — business and government leaders from the two countries — make recommendations on strengthening business ties.

Among the big issue for the private sector is moving toward a bilateral tax agreement between Brazil and the United States, which would essentially eliminate dual taxation of companies and individuals. “Brazil is the United States’ largest commercial relationship in the world without a bilateral tax agreement,’’ said Bipes.

In conjunction with the presidential visit, the Council also will lead a trade delegation of 40 companies in the energy and infrastructure industries to Brasilia, and then on to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo on Sunday and Monday.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is expected to join the trade mission in Rio and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke is slated to be with the business delegation in Sao Paulo.

Forman said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk; Fred Hochberg, head of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and Lisa Jackson, who heads the Environmental Protection Agency, also are expected to be in Brazil.

At the end of 2009, there was $57 billion in U.S. foreign direct investment in Brazil and that is only expected to grow as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2016 Olympic Games, which will be held in Rio, approach. Brazil is expected to invest more than $200 billion in everything from roads, public transportation, and airports to sports facilities.

These sporting events will provide “countless investment opportunities for U.S. businesses,’’ said Bipes.

Froman said the administration also sees particular potential in the infrastructure and energy industries.

“Brazil is going to become a major player in the global energy markets with its recent discovery of offshore oil,’’ he said.

Recent deepwater reserves discovered in the so-called pre-salt layer push Brazilian reserves to twice those of the United States.

Froman also said alternative energy, such as biofuels, wind and solar, is an area ripe for cooperation between the two countries.

Late Saturday, Obama is expected to fly to Rio and then move on to Chile and El Salvador before returning to Washington on Wednesday.

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