Brazil voices concern over US economic, foreign policies

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US President Barack Obama meets with Brazil President Dilma Rousseff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC. Photo -Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met US President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss American monetary policy and its sanctions against Iran among many other bilateral issues, reports coming from Washington said Thursday. Though the meeting was punctuated by a generally cordial visit to the White House that yielded some modest advances in cooperation on aviation and technology sharing, it also exposed clear differences on trade, economic policy and foreign affairs.

“Expansionist monetary policies … ultimately lead to a depreciation in the value of the currencies of developed countries, thus impairing growth outlooks in emerging countries,” Rousseff told reporters in the Oval Office.

Rousseff has criticised the United States and European countries in the past for causing a ‘monetary tsunami’ that has led ‘liquidity to flow into Brazil’, pushing up the value of its currency and making its exports less competitive.

The Brazilian president also raised concerns regarding the sanctions against Iran. Brazil has generally opposed sanctions against Iran and Syria, arguing they increase the risk of armed conflict. On a more economic level, she stated that the sanctions could fuel tensions in the Middle East and cause a spike in oil prices, thus threatening the global economic recovery.

“Brazil feels that the US is engaging in this tug of war with Iran which would affect our economy more adversely,” Juan Fernandes, owner of a transportation company in Sao Paulo told Arabian Gazette. “A spike in fuel prices would affect all types of companies in Brazil, small or big. We are afraid that our growth would be hindered.”

However, US President Obama was more enthusiastic. He called Rousseff a “good friend” and congratulated Brazil for making “extraordinary progress” in reducing poverty. “Our trade and investment is reaching record levels, which creates jobs and business opportunities in both countries,” he said during a press conference.

Investment

“The aim of this meeting was for Brazil to seek greater US recognition for its recent economic rise,” Professor of Political Studies at UCLA Maryam D’souza told Arabian Gazette. “Also, Brazil needs to remind the US to increase investment into the economy as it plans on hosting the 2014 Football World Cup and 2016 Olympics.”

Brazil is the world’s sixth biggest economy but only the eight largest foreign market for US goods. The bilateral trade among the two countries totaled around $74 billion in 2011. The White House wants greater access for American companies to Brazil’s growing consumer market of about 190 million people, which could help drive job growth in the United States.

“It’s a sign of interest in Brazil, which is only going to become more attractive as a market in coming years,” said Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute for the Wilson Center in Washington.

The two leaders also signed a memorandum of understanding to expand ties in the aviation sector, which they said in a statement should allow greater cooperation in travel and tourism.

However, talks over greater trade integration yielded little progress. A joint statement released by Rousseff and Obama after the meeting said they had “further emphasised the importance of the mutual benefits of stimulating increased trade and investment,” but mentioned no major advances.

Sotero added that while the visit did not herald any major progress on trade or investment, he was encouraged by Rousseff’s speech at the business forum, in which she emphasised the United States’ importance as an engine for global economic growth.

“I think she’s clearly portraying the United States as part of the solution to Brazil’s problems,” Sotero said. “That’s a positive change compared to recent years. We’ll have to see what it means in practice in the next few months.”

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters

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