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We Want to Rebuild Trust With Brazil, Says US Vice President Joe Biden

06/16/2014 - 10h08



At a dinner last month with foreign correspondents at the presidential palace, President Dilma Rousseff called US Vice President Joe Biden "seductive."

"We have not yet married, but we're dating," she said, according to a BBC report.

In an exclusive interview with Folha, Biden, 71, who arrives in Brazil on Monday (16), said he believed "in the benefits of dealing face-to-face with our most important relationships."

He will go on Monday to the US debut at the World Cup in Natal and on Tuesday (17) will meet with Dilma and Vice-President Michel Temer in Brasília.

A type of special envoy to Latin America from the Obama administration, the "seductive" Biden was scheduled to try to improve the relations between the two countries, which were affected by the disclosure of US espionage last year.

On the difficult relationship the US has with countries in the region governed by the left, Biden says the White House is making a "concerted effort to improve our relationship with the governments of the region beyond the ideological framework."

He gave written responses to Folha's questions -the US government handled their translation to Portuguese.

1. Do you think President Dilma Rousseff will have a State Dinner in Washington, after the postponement last year?
The President and I look forward to the opportunity of welcoming President Rousseff back to Washington. Brazil is a major global actor and partner, and the invitation from President Obama to President Rousseff reflects the importance we place on the bilateral relationship.

That is also part of why I am traveling to Brazil. Of course, in Natal I also look forward to rooting for our national team in its match against Ghana. Following that match, I will go to Brasilia to meet with President Rousseff and Vice President Michel Temer, because I believe in the benefits of tending to our most important relationships face-to-face and with the utmost respect.

When I spoke on the phone with President Rousseff on May 8, I made clear to her that the President and I are committed to advancing the bilateral relationship with Brazil, and to working toward a partnership where the reality matches the promise on everything from energy to education to trade to science and technology.

We're already well on the path toward that promise. Two-way trade is averaging over $100 billion per year. We continue to engage in active dialogues to advance concrete areas of cooperation - the U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue, Economic and Financial Dialogue, and Consultative Committee on Agriculture have all met recently.

The United States supported Brazil's leadership as host of the NetMundial meeting to discuss the future of internet governance. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was in Brazil last month to find ways for us to partner with Brazil on infrastructure. Education exchanges are also expanding rapidly as we work to advance President Obama's 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative and President Rousseff's Science Mobility Program.

But the sky is the limit and there's a lot more we can do together. That's what I look forward to discussing with President Rousseff.

2. From the last time you met President Rousseff, US-Brazil relations got cooler because of the NSA revelations. What's your message to President Rousseff in the upcoming meeting between you two? How to improve the bilateral relationship?
We have acknowledged that unauthorized revelations about American intelligence programs created raised concerns by governments around the world, including the Brazilian government and people. That's why in January the President gave a major speech announcing important reforms, including applying many of the same privacy protections to foreigners that we do to our own citizens, and a decision to not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.

As the President said, people around the world - regardless of their nationality - should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don't threaten our national security and takes their privacy concerns into account. Since the President's announcement, the President's National Security team and I have been in contact with Brazilian officials to find ways to deepen our cooperation and to rebuild trust going forward.

3. You said recently that "our struggle with the former Soviet Union sometimes left us on the side of leaders who didn't share our values". You also said the US "ended up on the right side of history". But, for many, the US has not being able to work fine with democratically elected leftist governments in Latin America. Do you recognize that difficulty? How to change that?
You are referring to a March interview in Chile where I called on the Venezuelan government to protect fundamental freedoms and engage in genuine dialogue with the opposition. All democratically-elected governments, whether of the left and the right, have a responsibility to uphold and respect these rights, which include freedoms of expression and assembly.

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, we have made a concerted effort to improve our relationships with the region's governments across the ideological spectrum. Our goal is to advance a positive agenda based on advancing our common interests and confronting shared challenges.

At the same time, the hemisphere is coming to terms with the challenges of democratic consolidation, and Venezuela provides an emblematic case of the weakening of democratic institutions. I've met most of the leaders in this hemisphere and am inspired by their personal histories. Men and women who suffered under dictatorships and today are the leaders of some of the region's most vibrant and inclusive societies. They are students of history, and understand the importance of maintaining a balanced playing field and sustaining robust democratic institutions in order to preserve the rights of all.

4. Do you see any possibility of trade talks between US and Brazil? Will the Pacific Alliance isolate Brazil? Is there a possibility to bring US farm bill subsidies to the table?
I prefer to look at the U.S.-Brazil relationship in much broader terms. The main challenge and opportunity facing the relationship is how our two countries can construct a 21st century comprehensive partnership. Related to this are two important facts that portend a sense of inevitability to the U.S.-Brazil relations and, as they become increasingly apparent, will help us overcome the temporary bumps in the road that are part and parcel of any relationship between two nations.

First, the issues that define the bilateral relationship are increasingly global in nature, like food and energy security, climate change, non-proliferation, and the fight against terrorism. We share common interests in addressing these challenges. As Brazil continues to emerge as a global actor, our interests are likely to converge more and more as we work together to build international structures that promote the prosperity, security, and well-being of our citizens.

Second, the principal driver of our relationship is the growing connections between our peoples and our businesses. By the end of this year, the United States will have welcomed more than 25,000 Brazilian students at more than 200 U.S. universities. Brazilian annual investment in the United States has almost reached parity with U.S. investment in Brazil, and Brazilian ownership of traditional American flagship companies like Anheuser-Busch, Burger King, and Pilgrim's Pride is reshaping how the American people understand Brazil's presence in our economy. On the U.S. side, companies like Ford and General Motors have been in Brazil so long that many Brazilians think they're national companies.

What this all means in practical terms is that U.S.-Brazil interests overlap significantly and we should always be looking for ways to partner for the benefit of both our countries. Brazil cannot and should not be isolated - that would go against our national interests, as well as the interests of the rest of the countries of the hemisphere.

5. Millions of Brazilians visit the US every year and too many think Brazilians should enter in a US Visa waiver program, like Chile recently. What's still missing to make it happen?
Brazil is currently the fourth largest non-immigrant visa recipient country in the world, after Mexico, Canada, and India. The roughly two million Brazilians who visited the United States in 2013, and the millions we intend to welcome this year and beyond, form an important part of the local economies in places such as Florida, New York, and Nevada. We were thrilled that the number of Brazilians to the United States jumped 15 percent in 2013. I hope the number will continue to grow, and we would like to see you visit and build a stronger connection with other parts of the United States as well.

In 2012, President Obama traveled to Disney World and promised that he would make it as easy as he could for Brazilians to come here, and we started a dialogue with Brazilian authorities on the Visa Waiver Program in 2012. Even while we continue to discuss the Visa Waiver Program, however, we are doing everything we can to meet President Obama's promise. We doubled the number of U.S. visa officers in Brazil, eliminated interviews for Brazilian applicants under the age of 16 and age 66 and older, and we will soon open two new consulates in Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte. In 2011, it took on average 100 days for a Brazilian to get a visa interview. Now, it takes only two days.

Of course, we also need to get more American students to learn Portuguese and to visit Brazil!

6. Both you, secretary of State John Kerry and secretary of Energy Ernesto Moniz have said recently that the US-Brazil partnership should involve energy. Since fracking and shale gas have created an enormous boom in the US (and no American company participated in the bid for Brazil's pre-salt oil), how Brazil could be important in that field? Which possible partnerships do you envision?
Brazil is an important global energy player, from its leadership in ethanol production and use, and the proliferation of fueling stations and flex-fuel vehicles in Brazil, to its discovery of vast offshore oil and gas resources. Furthermore, the United States and Brazil share a number of common goals and challenges in the energy sector, including developing a diversified energy mix - what we call an "all of the above" strategy in the United States - and figuring out ways to improve the energy efficiency and reduce harmful carbon pollution in support of climate change goals.

Put simply, the potential for U.S.-Brazil energy cooperation is great. Since the creation of the U.S.-Brazil Strategic Energy Dialogue (SED) in 2011, we have worked together to address important energy and climate challenges. In fact, the SED was built on existing bilateral cooperation between our countries in biofuels, hydrocarbons, and civil nuclear energy, to name just a few areas, so our energy partnership dates back many years.

U.S. oil companies have been active in Brazil's offshore oil and gas sector for years, and Petrobras has a history of deep water operation in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. This is an area where each country can contribute expertise and benefit from technical and commercial bilateral engagement. What we have learned through SED engagement is that U.S. service companies are eager to explore opportunities to partner in the development of oil and gas, including unconventional resources, in Brazil.

Additionally, the United States and Brazil have many lessons learned to share in the regulation and environmental management of hydrocarbons development, be it in the offshore environment or in the development of shale gas. Efficient, safe, and reliable production of oil and gas benefits us all, which is why oil and gas development will remain an important part of our bilateral engagement. This is why it is so important that we schedule the next SED soon. It will be a great opportunity to further advance our energy cooperation and explore new partnerships.

Read the article in Portuguese

US Vice President Joe Biden
US Vice President Joe Biden

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