After visiting Colombia and Trinidad and Tobago this week, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden began a three day tour of Brazil today that is expected to focus largely on energy cooperation and economic growth.
Biden’s first stop on his tour is Rio de Janeiro. While there, the vice president will address energy-sector business leaders, tour a Petrobras deep-water oil exploration research facility and visit community leaders in a favela. On Friday, he will travel to the capital city of Brasilia to meet with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
The discovery of large oil reserves off the coast of Brazil could help reduce U.S. dependence on oil in the Middle East, and U.S. technology designed to extract shale gas could serve as the foundation of an energy deal between the two countries. Vice President Biden and President Rousseff are also expected to discuss Rousseff’s October trip to the United States. It will mark the first state visit by a Brazilian executive to the U.S. in nearly twenty years.
In addition to the bilateral agenda—which includes energy cooperation and development projects in science and technology as part of Brazil’s Science Without Borders initiative—the vice president’s trip also reiterates the United States’ interest in Latin America as a strategic economic partner. Prior to Biden’s tour of the region, President Obama visited Mexico and Costa Rica earlier this month.
A Brazilian government spokesperson announced yesterday that President Dilma Rousseff will visit Mexico in early 2013, likely in March, to build on “the very good impression” made by President Enrique Peña Nieto when the then-president elect visited Brasilia in September. The visit will focus on further reversing the tensions sparked over Brazil’s imposition of quotas in early 2012 as well as on sharing the Petrobras model, Brazil’s state oil company, with Mexican counterparts who are looking at how to reform the Mexican state oil company Pemex.
Plans are already underway for a follow-up visit where Pemex executives will travel to Brazil to learn first-hand how Petrobras functions.
Relations soured between Latin America’s two largest economies when Brazil, in response to an escalating trade deficit with Mexico, imposed import quotas on Mexican vehicles. Brazilian government officials have more recently hinted at the possibility of opening up discussions around the current automobile quotas.
Rousseff’s visit to Mexico may be largely symbolic, but the Mexican business community is awaiting concrete actions. Luis de la Calle, the former undersecretary of international business negotiations at the Mexican Ministry of Economy who actively negotiated the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement said that it was “sensible to maintain a certain level of skepticism. At the end of the day, it comes down to interest and what is best for both Brazil and Mexico as a much more open trading relationship.”