Strengthening U.S.–Latin American Commercial Relations
Talks in Brazil and Uruguay in October 2007 focused on the commercial and strategic relationships those countries have with the United States. The talks were part of an ongoing U.S. effort to strengthen ties throughout the Western Hemisphere.
by Lorrie Lopes and Alexander Peacher
U.S. commercial ties with the Western Hemisphere were the focus of visits to Uruguay and Brazil in October 2007 by Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez. New cooperative efforts were launched, and agreements and letters were signed during the visits. The visits were the result of ongoing discussions on a wide variety of commercial and trade issues that involve the Commerce Department and other U.S. government agencies.
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|Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Reinaldo Gargano (center) greets Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez (second from left) at the entrance to the foreign ministry building in Montevideo on October 9. During the visit, Gutierrez signed a letter of intent that pledges the two countries to cooperate on issues of innovation and competitiveness. (U.S. Department of State photo)
Agreement Signed with Uruguay
A commitment to deepen the dynamic bilateral commercial relationship between Uruguay and the United States was the focus of the first visit. Gutierrez spent October 8 and 9, 2007, in the capital city of Montevideo, where he met with Tabaré Vázquez, president of Uruguay; Reinaldo Gargano, minister of foreign affairs; and Jorge Lepra, minister of industry. Gutierrez signed a letter of intent with Uruguay that commits the two governments to cooperate on issues of innovation and competitiveness.
The first cooperative effort under the letter of agreement will be a symposium on innovation that Uruguay will host in late March 2008. The symposium will continue the work that began at the Americas Competitiveness Forum, which was held in Atlanta, Georgia, in June 2007.
The symposium will focus on the following countries of the Mercosur: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. However, participation from other Western Hemisphere countries will also be welcome. The goal is not to replicate the significant accomplishments of existing mechanisms and institutions but to explore and highlight new ways to spark innovation, to enhance national and regional competitiveness, and to ultimately create and sustain economic growth.
The U.S.–Uruguay commercial relationship has seen significant growth in the past several years. The relationship began with the creation of the Joint Commission on Trade and Investment in 2002, and it continued with the negotiation of a bilateral investment treaty in November 2006 and the signing of a trade and investment framework agreement in January 2007. This latest agreement will serve to deepen the relationship.
“Uruguay has made great progress in opening doors for business, creating advances in technology, and improving education,” said Gutierrez during his visit. “By working together, both bilaterally and regionally, we can ensure that we have robust, dynamic business environments and flexible, skilled talent pools that are equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century and to compete globally.”
Strengthening Ties with Brazil
Gutierrez next went to Brazil, where, during October 10 and 11, he presided over the inaugural meeting of the U.S.–Brazil Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forum and the third meeting of the U.S.–Brazil Commercial Dialogue in the capital city of Brasília.
The CEO Forum is made up of government and business leaders from both countries. President George W. Bush and Brazilian President Luiz “Lula” Inácio da Silva announced the forum during a meeting at Camp David, Maryland. The Commercial Dialogue between the U.S. Department of Commerce and Brazil’s Ministry of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade was launched in 2006 and focuses on advancing commercial relations.
Brazil and the United States maintain a strong relationship with merchandise trade, which totaled more than $45 billion last year, an increase of 15 percent from 2005. The United States is Brazil’s largest single trading partner. Bush and da Silva recognize the benefits of a strong and dynamic commercial relationship and continue to foster the dialogue.
U.S.–Brazil CEO Forum
The inaugural meeting of the U.S.–Brazil CEO Forum, held on October 10 and 11 in Brasília, was the first in a series in which Brazil and the United States will partner with the private sector to make progress toward a number of goals. Those goals include strengthening bilateral economic and commercial relations, promoting bilateral trade and investment, increasing competitiveness in global markets, and advancing economic prosperity for the people of both countries.
The forum is cochaired by Gutierrez and Allan Hubbard, director of the National Economic Council. The cochairs for Brazil are Miguel Jorge, minister of development, industry, and foreign trade, and Dilma Rousseff, presidential chief of staff. Twenty top Brazilian and American business leaders make up the private-sector partners.
The forum made joint recommendations to the government officials on how Brazil and the United States can better promote trade, improve competitiveness, and support an environment for the rapid and secure movement of goods.
“The forum provided specific recommendations for the U.S. and Brazilian governments on steps we can take to grow ties between our two countries,” said Hubbard. “In particular, [it] identified mechanisms, such as a bilateral tax treaty, that would promote investment and trade. The CEOs also made recommendations on other areas for focus, including investment protection, infrastructure, biofuels, customs modernization, and support of innovation through intellectual property protection.”
U.S.–Brazil Commercial Dialogue
On October 10, Gutierrez and Jorge presided over the U.S.–Brazil Commercial Dialogue reporting session. Topics of discussion included the following:
- Enhancing trade facilitation as a result of bilateral collaboration focused on Brazil’s customs modernization plans, particularly plans for express delivery
- Enhancing cooperation between the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology and Brazil’s National Institute of Metrology, Standardization, and Industrial Quality
- Increasing collaboration between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Brazil’s National Industrial Property Institute
- Reducing the average time to register and open a business in Brazil
The two countries also agreed to focus on entrepreneurial and venture development, with an eye toward building and maintaining a culture of free enterprise. This focus includes establishing a task force to identify and address impediments to venture capital investment.
A Cooperative Effort
The United States is committed to working cooperatively to improve overall economic and business relations with Brazil and to encourage the public and private sectors in the respective countries to increase and diversify the bilateral flows of goods and services.
The United States will host the next ministerial meeting of the U.S.–Brazil Commercial Dialogue and the next CEO Forum meeting in 2008. In the meantime, both governments will collaborate on how to best move forward with the recommendations put forth by the CEOs.
Lorrie Lopes is the Brazil desk officer and Alexander Peacher is the Uruguay desk officer in the Market Access and Compliance unit of the International Trade Administration.
“Unprecedented Transformation” Seen in Colombia
Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez led a second bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation to Colombia on October 12–13, 2007, to show the positive economic and social changes being driven by President Alvaro Uribe, a key U.S. ally in the region.
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| Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez (center) and members of a bipartisan congressional delegation in Bojayá, Colombia, on October 13. This Afro-Colombian community has been the target of rebuilding efforts by President Alvaro Uribe after years of violence at the hands of paramilitary groups and rebels earlier this decade. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
In remarks to the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce on October 12, Gutierrez said that he wanted “members of the United States Congress to see what I have seen: an unprecedented transformation of an entire country.”
In Bogotá, the U.S. delegation met with Uribe and members of his cabinet to discuss the pending U.S. free trade agreement with Colombia. The delegation also met with labor leaders to hear of the government’s efforts to reduce violence against trade unionists and to address human rights issues.
On October 13, the group went to Bojayá, an Afro-Colombian community on the Pacific Coast that the Colombian government has been assisting in its rebuilding efforts. In 2002, much of Bojayá was destroyed in the crossfire between rebel groups and paramilitaries, and the community suffered severe flooding in recent months.
The visit concluded in Medellín, where the delegation learned about Colombia’s plans to integrate former paramilitary members back into civil society. The group also visited a flower farm. The fresh-cut flower industry in Colombia has emerged as a sustainable alternative to drug crop production. The industry has been a major success story under the Andean Trade Preference Act, with exports to the United States valued at $450 million in 2006. Flower exports enter the U.S. market duty-free, and this trade supports an estimated 150,000 U.S. jobs.