Let me start off by thanking our hosts today—the National Confederation of Industry. There is a long history of CNI providing support to the U.S. Embassy here in Brazil. In just the past few years, CNI has graciously hosted events featuring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and former Undersecretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez, among many others. Thank you to CNI, and particularly to Mr. Robson Andrade.
I am honored to speak today at the plenary session of the Brazil-U.S. Business Council. I would like to recognize Mr. Ahmet Bozer from Coca-Cola, who is leading the U.S. delegation today, and Fred Curado, from Embraer, chairman of the Brazil side, as well as all the members from both the Brazil and the U.S. Sections.
I congratulate the Brazilian people and electoral officials on another successful election marked by extraordinary participation and energetic debate. We look forward to continuing to work with President Rousseff and her administration to strengthen our shared aspirations and advance our bilateral relationship. As I am sure most of you know, President Obama called President Rousseff shortly after her victory to congratulate her, and Vice President Biden spoke with her last week. It is our hope that Minister Figueiredo and Secretary Kerry will meet soon to establish a concrete path for our cooperation going forward. Despite existing challenges, U.S.-Brazil economic and commercial ties are the ballast of our relationship.
- AmCham Brasil is the largest American Chamber of Commerce in the world, with more than 5,000 corporate members and 14 offices around Brazil, with the Fortaleza branch opening this year.
- The Commercial Section of our embassy led over 2000 Brazilian business people to nearly 40 different trade shows in the United States last year.
- Moreover, the Commercial Section, both directly and through its partner program, Network with the USA, has branch offices in over 50 Brazilian cities. It works to connect Brazilian businesses to U.S. partners through its network in more than 100 U.S. cities. We are working to connect the dots between businesses in every corner of our countries.
- Such state-to-state initiatives are increasingly part of our engagement. In fact, official delegations from 10 of the 50 U.S. states visited Brazilian states in just the past two years.
We were delighted to learn that President Rousseff plans to implement a second phase of her government’s Scientific Mobility Program or Ciencia Sem Fronteiras. Indeed, one of the key areas of cooperation between our two countries that contributes directly to economic prosperity is education. Since January 2012, more than 26,000 Brazilians have studied in the United States as part of Ciencia Sem Fronteiras, which set the goal of sending 101,000 Brazilian students overseas to complete coursework and internships in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Many of these students went on to enjoy internships at U.S. and Brazilian businesses – contributing undoubtedly to the success of the program. I would like to recognize and thank the members of the Brazil-U.S. Business Council for your contributions, and I hope that your businesses continue to support the program going forward. I am convinced these students are true assets to the U.S.-Brazil Commercial relationship.
Simultaneously, the U.S. government is working to increase the number of U.S. students studying in Brazil – through President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative. Through this initiative’s innovation fund, the U.S. Department of State is working with private industry and will provide matching grants to U.S. institutions to promote and expand exchanges in the western hemisphere, including sending U.S. students to Brazil.
Recognizing that communication is the foundation of business transactions, the United States Government actively works to promote the teaching of the English language in Brazil. My embassy maintains strong partnerships with 38 binational centers in 15 states across Brazil to support English language instruction across the country. We also work closely with the Government of Brazil to support the Ingles Sem Fronteiras program.
U.S. businesses are also strong partners in promoting English in Brazil. TheMais Unidos Group is a corporate philanthropic organization of more than 100 U.S. businesses operating in Brazil that work in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy. I know many of the businesses represented here today are participants. Mais Unidos is currently funding the construction of cutting edge language laboratories at five Brazilian federal universities, and, in a separate project, maintains an online platform where any Brazilian can learn English, online, for free. Since the launch of the website in July, more than 12,000 students have participated in the program .
The U.S. Embassy in Brazil does everything it can to promote business and leisure exchanges between Brazil and the United States. Since June 2012, there has been no wait time for a visa interview in any of the four U.S. consular sections in Brazil, and visa applicants spend less than an hour in our facilities. We really pride ourselves on providing excellent, timely services which facilitate legitimate travel to the United States.
We have processed more than one million visas in each of the last two years. The vast majority of these travelers are approved for visas which are typically valid for 10 years. We excitedly anticipate even higher demand in the future, and are working hard to ensure we continue to deliver excellent customer service.
Despite the millions of visas we process in Brazil, there is a myth that it is difficult to get a U.S. visa. This is simply not true. I can say with confidence that our process is easy, fast, and readily available.
The United States welcomes Brazilian visitors with open arms. Last year, more than 2 million Brazilians visited the United States, a new record. Brazil is now the 5th largest source of tourists to the United States – and we aim to see that number grow.
The United States remains committed to partnering with Brazil in pursuit of our shared economic and development goals. Examples like the U.S.-Brazil Aviation Partnership demonstrate how stronger partnerships can help our two countries access global value chains, spur innovation, and enhance global competitiveness. The U.S.-Brazil Aviation Partnership provides a venue for both countries to address aviation sector priorities, including technical cooperation on aviation infrastructure, air transportation, and air traffic management technologies. Last month the Partnership held a workshop on Air Traffic Flow Management in Rio de Janeiro, where industry and officials from both countries exchanged information on best practices and technologies used in Air Traffic Control, particularly relating to major events that can increase air traffic such as the World Cup and the Olympics. I hope the Aviation Partnership can serve as a model for the creation of partnerships in other strategic industries between our two countries.
The Aviation Partnership is, in fact, a partnership that sprang from a very special bilateral mechanism – The CEO Forum. The Forum brings together 12 U.S. and 12 Brazilian CEOs to produce joint recommendations to our two governments on ideas for change that can positively impact both countries. Fred Curado, one of the chairs of today’s plenary, is also a member of the Forum.
Other great ideas have also come out of the CEO Forum. For example, in the past month U.S. Embassy representatives participated in a workshop focused on developing smart grid standards in Brazil, and officials fromCasa Civil met with the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to discuss regulatory best practices. The CEO Forum can help guide policy making in our countries in ways that can increase prosperity for us all. We are hopeful that the CEO Forum will be convoked in 2015.
The U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue is another success story. Since 2006, the Commercial Dialogue has focused on increasing bilateral trade and investment by identifying and eliminating impediments. The Dialogue has tackled a wide range of commercial issues such as express delivery, franchising, patent and trademark issues, biofuels, standards, institutional investing, services statistics, and regulatory coherence. In August, the Commercial Dialogue hosted workshops in Brazil to discuss regulatory practices with industry in order to improve predictability, consistency, and transparency in the rulemaking process.
Earlier this year, as part of the Commercial Dialogue, SelectUSA and Apex-Brazil, our nations’ investment promotion agencies signed a Memorandum of Intent to encourage further investment between our two countries.
The United States is already the single largest investor in Brazil. Some U.S. companies, including several here in the room today, opened their first Brazilian offices more than 100 years ago. U.S. companies in Brazil are helping Brazil develop cutting edge technologies by combining U.S. and Brazilian best practices. U.S. companies operate more than 70 research centers around Brazil, producing world-class research on topics ranging from automotive to pharmaceutical products. The current value of U.S. investment in Brazil is more than $100 billion.
Meanwhile, Brazilian investment in the United States has tripled over the last five years to $15 billion. This reciprocal partnership not only provides Brazilian firms with U.S. innovations that help them compete globally, it also provides access to global supply chains and consumer markets in the United States—and in 23 other countries around the world with which the United States maintains a network of free trade agreements. Some of the most iconic brands in the United States, such as Burger King, Heinz, and Budweiser are Brazilian-owned, and more than 76,000 workers in the United States are employed by Brazilian invested firms. In short, Brazilian firms are welcome in the United States.
To further the accord between SelectUSA and ApexBrasil, in March I plan to lead a delegation of 50 Brazilian companies to the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, DC. The SelectUSA Summit is the premier event promoting investment in the United States, bringing together top executives from businesses around the world to meet with U.S. cabinet secretaries and economic development organizations from throughout the United States to learn about U.S. investment opportunities.
I am honored to have had the opportunity to speak with you today. Looking at the U.S.-Brazil relationship as a whole – our similarities far outweigh our differences. We are the two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere, and share a common heritage of diversity. Bilateral cooperation at the government level is vital and productive, but the bulk of our relationship is conducted directly between Brazilian and U.S. citizens and businesses themselves. Every day millions of business transactions, large and small, tie us closer together and further demonstrate our common values and shared purpose.
Thank you for your time today and for your contributions to our two countries’ great relationship.