When top American officials have visited Brazil in the past, they often have asked what the United States can do to help Brazil’s economy, which has been buffetted by periodic financial crises.
But when President Obama visits this weekend, he’ll be asking what Brazil can do for the U.S. economy.
White House officials said Tuesday that Obama’s trip this weekend — the centerpiece of which will be a series of economic talks in Brazil — would focus on ways that rapid growth in Latin America’s largest economy can pay off for U.S. businesses.
“This trip fundamentally is about the U.S. recovery, U.S. exports and the critical relationship that Latin America plays in our economic future and jobs here in the United States,” said Michael Froman, national security adviser for international economic affairs.
As options to use taxpayer spending to bolster the economy have narrowed, Obama has emphasized the importance to the economic recovery of boosting exports by U.S. companies.
Brazil’s economy grew 7.5 percent last year and is expected to continue a brisk expansion this year. The seventh-largest economy in the world, it has become an important trading partner, with exports to Brazil doubling in the past five years, many of those gains coming in 2010.
Aides said that the two big opportunities they are targeting for U.S. businesses in Brazil are the energy sector and infrastructure and construction. Brazil is expected to spend up to $200 billion preparing to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
Obama is traveling to Brazil with a coterie of senior U.S. officials and is planning to give a major speech on U.S.-Brazil economic relations.
The trip comes at a sensitive moment, both domestically and in Brazil. The president is working to finalize and pass a trio of free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s government is upset about U.S. tariffs on sugar and sugar-based ethanol and concerned that its economy is beginning to import too much compared with how much it exports.
Froman said he does not expect an announcement on whether the United States will lower or eliminate ethanol tariffs, but he expects the issue to come up as part of a broader discussion on alternative forms of energy.
And he pointed out that the United States is also doing business in Brazil to allay fears about the nation’s growing budget deficit.