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Remarks at Brazil-U.S. Business Council Annual Plenary Meeting

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Friday, December 4, 2009

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Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at Brazil-U.S. Business Council Annual Plenary Meeting
Washington, D.C.

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Thank you. Good morning everyone. I’m delighted to be here.

In the last three decades, the trade between Brazil and the United States has increased at a rate unprecedented in our history.

In 1977, the year after the Brazil-U.S. business council was born, our bilateral trade totaled $4.8 billion.

Last year, it was over $63 billion.

Today, the United States is Brazil’s largest foreign investor. And Brazilian companies are investing here—in sectors including steel mills, aircraft manufacturing, information technology, and construction services.

None of this happened by chance. Over the years, the members of this council have done so much to bring our countries closer together and expand our sphere of economic cooperation.

And in this time of economic difficulty, your talent and your leadership are needed more than ever.

This past year has seen a slow down of trade across the globe. That has certainly included goods and services moving between the U.S. and Brazil.

But there’s no reason to believe this slow down will be permanent. And I have many reasons to expect that when the world economy gets back on its feet, trade between our countries will return to its recent upward trajectory.

As was recently stated in The Economist magazine, Brazil is on a roll, with an economy growing at an annualized rate of five percent and the expectation that it will pick up more speed over the next few years.

And even as we work our way through the economic crisis and commercial disagreements, such as the recent cotton industry dispute that Brazil bought to the WTO—we are building a strong foundation for further trade and investment.

The reality is that our two nations—in fact, any two nations with a deep, complicated, and mature relationship—are not always going to agree.

But as President Obama made clear in his meeting earlier this year with President Lula, the U.S. is committed to a strong and dynamic relationship with Brazil—a relationship that promotes democracy, commerce and regional stability.

That has not changed.

Brazil is a key partner. We will continue working together to improve our bilateral relationship and address the many issues facing the hemisphere and the world.

At Commerce, we are approaching this goal through several vehicles.

We lead two highly successful partnerships with Brazil: the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum and the U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue.

Last July when the CEO Forum met and we introduced new members, we had a very candid discussion about improving the trade environment.

We were pleased to have Ministers Rouseff and Jorge with us.

We talked about bilateral tax and investment treaties, visa reform, and customs facilitation among other critical business issues. And a decision was made to form working groups to explore other areas such as energy, education and infrastructure.

This Forum has provided some valuable insights. Its recommendations have resulted in concrete results, including improved visa processing by U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Brazil.

I am looking forward to attending the 5th CEO Forum meeting in Brazil next March.

As for the U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue, it has been described as quiet and unsung, but successful. Through the government-to-government Dialogue, officials meet and talk directly about ways to facilitate trade and investment.

Most recently, the focus has been on addressing customs barriers, intellectual property protection, standards, and creating a venture capital task force.

A Commerce team recently returned from Manaus, where they were working with CAMEX on ways to ensure the rapid and secure movement of goods.

Our governments are now exploring new areas of cooperation. And once our Under Secretary for the International Trade Administration is confirmed, we expect to schedule the next Commercial Dialogue meeting.

And within the US government, we are taking our own steps to broaden cooperation with Brazil.

In October, I convened the U.S. government-wide Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, which brought together 20 different federal agencies to establish trade priorities and identify areas of greatest potential that would promote growth and jobs.

One of the six working groups I introduced will focus on Brazil, India and China. It is telling that Brazil is one of the three priority markets—not just for exports, but also for investment.

In recent months, I also had an opportunity to participate in the Americas Competitiveness Forum, which was held in Chile, where I met Dr. Luciano Coutinho, president of the Brazilian Development Bank.

As head of the largest development bank in the hemisphere, his contributions to the program were compelling.

The Forum was an excellent venue for U.S. companies to meet with high-level government officials and other business leaders from across the Americas to address mutual challenges and discuss ways to increase prosperity.

Of course, one of our most pressing mutual challenges is climate change.

This Administration takes the threat of climate change and its impact on our society and our economy very seriously. The United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last nine months than at any time in our history.

In the Western Hemisphere, cooperation and collaboration will be critical to our shared success, especially when you consider that the International Energy Agency has estimated that 97 percent of the growth of emissions between now and 2030 is going to come in the developing world.

It will be an ongoing effort to meet this challenge. And I'm pleased to report that Energy Secretary Chu has invited the energy ministers from across the Western Hemisphere to attend the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas next April.

This meeting will advance the goals of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that was announced by President Obama in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this year.

As the largest country in South America, Brazil will be absolutely central to our efforts.

The success that Brazil has had weathering this global recession has made them a model worthy of emulating throughout the hemisphere.

And I want to congratulate Brazil on their upcoming opportunities to showcase their country, as host of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

I know that the U.S. business community is eager to work with Brazil as it prepares for these enormous undertakings.

Together, we can work to address the challenges our countries and our region face – using trade to alleviate poverty, protect our environment, and encourage freedom and democracy.

My thank you again to the Brazil-U.S. Business Council for all you do to advance these crucial goals.