Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk At The American Chamber of Commerce

September 16, 2009
American Chamber of Commerce
Sao Paulo, Brazil


Thank you, Gabriel, for the warm welcome. I am so glad the Chamber has given me this opportunity to speak to you. The relationship between the United States and Brazil is significant and growing, so this is an exciting time for all of us.

The United States has always viewed Brazil as a valuable partner. Over the years, the ties between our two nations have expanded to include increased trade, capital flows, cross-border investment, and a wide range of educational, health, scientific and other joint activities. Presidents Obama and Lula have publicly recognized the benefits of a strong and dynamic relationship between our countries - a relationship that promotes democracy, commerce, and regional stability.

The U.S.-Brazil trading relationship is large, growing, and balanced. In 2008, U.S. exports to Brazil totaled $32.9 billion and imports from Brazil totaled $30.5 billion, supporting jobs and growth in both countries.

The United States is a top foreign investor in Brazil. In 2007, U.S. direct investment to Brazil was $41.6 billion, up 25.6% from 2006. And Brazilian investments in the U.S. totaled $1.4 billion in 2007, up 33.7% from 2006.

These investments make a tremendous, positive contribution to our economies. We must continue to build on that success.

Now, I know we don't always see eye to eye. We have disagreements. But I assure you that I am here to listen. We should work together to seek solutions that strengthen our relations. We should not let our disagreements define us.

We are already working together on many critical issues. And we are making progress on those issues. Our two nations share many of the same values and have common interests. Brazil's special interest in promoting development in the world's poorest countries is widely recognized. So is Brazil's commitment to development cooperation in Africa and its leadership role in the UN peace-keeping operation in Haiti. The Obama Administration shares that commitment to security and economic growth in the world's poorest regions.

In August, I spent eight days traveling throughout Africa to see first-hand how our trade preference and development programs are working to fulfill that commitment. We have made a lot of progress, but there is always more to do. I look forward to doing that work together.

We stand ready to listen to you and work with you. We are facing many common challenges. Among them is the need to stimulate economic growth in the face of the current global economic slowdown without turning inward or resorting to protectionist policies. We need to guard against protectionism around the world. During the Great Depression, knee-jerk protectionism sank the world into deeper suffering. Country after country walled itself off from trade, each responding to the others' insular restrictions. Soon global trade was at a near standstill. We can't afford to let that happen again. We need a trade policy that opens up opportunities, not one that shuts them down.

We need to seek areas where we can work together to spur economic growth and opportunity between, and within, our countries. One such area is the Doha Round. Furthering trade liberalization through new trade flows and meaningful market opening, which an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Round would achieve, would spur economic growth and development both here in Brazil, and in all countries.

We also need innovative ideas to help ensure that the poor and historically disenfranchised are able to seize the opportunities that international trade can provide.

I am very impressed by much of the work that is taking place in Northeastern Brazil. Innovative centers, such as CESAR/Porto Digital in Recife (RAY-SEE-FAY), are creating new jobs and new opportunities throughout Brazil. This is another area in which we can, and should, work together. As you know, innovation is pivotal to the acceleration of development. Protecting and promoting that innovation, through strong intellectual property rights laws is essential to economic growth.

Brazil is home to some of the most creative minds in the world. But Brazil may not be reaping the rewards of that creativity. Brazil is responsible for 2 percent of scientific publications in the world, but Brazil receives only 0.2 percent of the world's patents. To me, this demonstrates lost opportunity. Brazil is also a worldwide cultural center whose literature, music and films are appreciated throughout the world. They are a valuable asset that should be protected through strong intellectual property rights laws.

Both our nations need to support innovation and creativity now more than ever. We need to create high-wage jobs today, and build new industries that will bring jobs for years to come.

Our interests far outweigh our differences. We must identify ways in which we can achieve our shared goals through dialogue and cooperation. To that end, our governments should consider whether our existing bilateral mechanisms are sufficient to reflect the depth of our bilateral trade relationship. I intend to explore this issue during my time in Brazil. I am confident that by working together, we can resolve our differences, and help lay the groundwork for a renewed bilateral trade relationship that reflects our strong values and helps both our economies grow.

Again, thank you for your warm welcome. I am looking forward to my time here in Brazil.