Brazil's President Rousseff meets with Obama: 5 topics for talks

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is in the United States for three days this week and met President Obama at the White House on Monday. Mr. Obama visited Brazil last March. There was a lot of good rhetoric, but little follow-up.

Monday’s meeting was an opportunity for the leaders of the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere to build greater rapport and trust. “In Washington, there’s this perception that Latin America is this homogeneous region with one agenda [the US can] put in place for the whole region,” says Joao Augusto Castro Neves, Latin America analyst for the Eurasia Group. “That model’s not true anymore.”

Brazil and the US are working together in countries like Haiti, and cooperating on issues of energy, biofuel, and security. Here are 5 topics observers were hopeful would make it on Monday’s presidential agenda:

Ueslei Marcelino/REUTERS
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff participates in a ceremony of announcement for new measures of the Plan "Brasil Maior" and the installation of Sector Councils for competitiveness in Brazil April 3.

Boosting trade

Many in the US business community hope Rousseff’s visit will jump-start a trade relationship that has strong potential but is widely viewed as underperforming.

“The Brazilian economy is highly interdependent with the American economy,” Matias Spektor of the Getulio Vargas Foundation recently told the Council on Foreign Relations. “US exports to Brazil have doubled in size in recent years. Brazil is the fourth-largest creditor of the United States.”

US-Brazil bilateral trade was around $74 billion last year, according to the US Census Bureau, and the US is Brazil’s No. 2 trading partner behind China. But despite Brazil’s standing as the sixth-largest economy in the world, it is only the eighth-largest US trading partner, according to Reuters. Some say Brazil is too dependent on exports to China, and needs to diversify and increase its exports of manufactured goods to the US, the Miami Herald reports.

Some of the trade concerns expressed by Brazil during the leaders’ last meeting in March 2011 have since been addressed. A US tax on ethanol imports has expired, and Congress renewed legislation that allows many Brazilian goods, and products from other developing countries, to enter the US duty-free.

Rousseff will speak with the US Chamber of Commerce as well as Obama, likely touching on investment partnerships, steps needed to work toward a free-trade agreement, and loosening visa restrictions for both tourists and businessmen.

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