US, Brazil to study potential trade agreement

The Brazil-U.S. Business Council, which is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has signed a cooperation agreement with the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry to conduct studies on a potential trade agreement and report back to both governments on the results.

The BUSBC-led delegation brought more than 50 business leaders from 31 U.S. companies to Brazil for meetings with government officials and policymakers in the energy, defense and technology sectors, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Throughout the trip, the delegation focused on its top policy priorities, including beginning a dialogue regarding possible agreements on trade.

“Brazil is currently the United States’ ninth-largest goods trading partner, but there is room to grow that relationship,” said Jodi Bond, vice president for the Americas at the U.S. Chamber and signatory of the cooperation agreement on behalf of the council, in a statement. “This joint effort by the private sectors of both countries will shed light on exactly where the opportunities and challenges lie within the framework of a mutually beneficial agreement.”

Containerized exports from the U.S. to Brazil totaled 322,318 TEUs in 2013, compared with 288,065 TEUs in 2012 and 242,085 TEUs in pre-recession 2007, according to PIERS, the data division of JOC Group. The top containerized export commodities in the lane are plastic products, auto parts, wood pulp, synthetic resins and paper.

In the opposite direction, containerized imports from Brazil to the U.S. totaled 295,958 TEUs in 2013, up from 292,694 TEUs in 2012 but down from 423,764 TEUs in 2007, PIERS reported. The top containerized import commodities are logs and lumber, granite, paper, coffee and auto parts.

The trip to Brazil was also the first opportunity for many members of the U.S. business community to observe Brazil’s changing political landscape following the recent re-election of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party in late October, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said.

Many port terminal operators, shippers and shipowners preferred her opponent, Aécio Neves of the right-of-center Social Democracy Party, who they considered to be more market-friendly, while Roussef endeared herself to dockworkers, shipbuilding interests and operators of Brazilian-flag vessels with support for unions and for an initiative that would require 40 percent to 80 percent local content for all Brazilian-built ships.

However, former Wall Street banker Henrique Meirelles is a frontrunner to be Brazil’s next finance minister, which would mark a major shift toward business-friendly policies in Rousseff’s second term, Reuters reported. The issue of who Rousseff will name to replace the resigning finance minister has been the subject of heated public debate, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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