Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who is visiting Washington Monday is the first woman to lead her country. She represents the world’s 6th largest economy and an emerging global power – one that is using the soft power generated by its vibrant society and creative private sector to strengthen its relationships around the world.
The Brazilian and U.S. policymakers set to meet this week could make meaningful headway on the crucial economic and business issues at hand, and build a bolder partnership.
The enormous potential of deeper cooperation between Brazil and the United States is clear to the business community. Rousseff’s visit is an opportunity for the leaders of both countries to work toward stronger relations in four key areas: trade, infrastructure, visas and science and education.
Over the last two decades, Brazil has had one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing economies, recently overtaking Britain in the rankings. Brazil and the United States., which are the two largest countries in the Western Hemisphere and make up roughly half its billion-person population, offer each other growing markets.
Trade between Brazil and the U.S. is already on the rise. U.S. exports to Brazil have risen more than three-fold since 1994. Imports from Brazil have more than doubled. Trade between our countries, however, is valued at only $67 billion annually. Imagine if we pursued a more ambitious partnership.
The cornerstone should be deeper economic integration between our nations. This is a powerful strategy for creating jobs, promoting growth and building a stronger strategic relationship. Trade and investment between Brazil and the U.S. now supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in each country, and our leaders hope for more. The time has come for both governments to begin a substantive dialogue with the goal of reaching a Bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement between our countries.
On infrastructure, Brazil is investing $1 trillion in advance of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, and to set the stage for long-term economic growth. U.S. firms can play an even larger role in providing expertise to get these and other projects done, including critical upgrades to ports and other trade infrastructure that enable access to markets around the world.
To further the U.S.-Brazil partnership, Washington must also bring its visa regime into the 21st century. Brazilian tourists spend more in the United States than tourists from any other country. President Barack Obama’s executive order speeding up visa processing from Brazil is an important step. But more action is needed. The U.S. should grant Brazil entry to the Visa Waiver Program — adding Brazil to the list of 36 countries whose citizens do not need a visa to visit our shores.
We also share Rousseff’s vision for deepening the ties between our people and building their skills through scientific and educational cooperation. Her “Science Without Borders” initiative places Brazilian scientists and students in universities and labs throughout the U.S. and around the world, enriching U.S. companies by fostering talent development and innovation.
Brazil is on a trajectory that will include the United States — but to what degree? Our nations – and businesses – are stronger when working more closely together. It is up to Rousseff and Obama to come together around a bolder vision for our partnership, moving forward on an ambitious bilateral agenda that recognizes business as a driving force.
Greg Page is the chief executive officer of Cargill and chairman of the Brazil-U.S. Business Council. Tom Donohue is the president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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