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Vice President Biden on U.S.-Brazil Relations

29 May 2013

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
May 29, 2013

REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
ON U.S.-BRAZIL RELATIONS IN RIO de JANEIRO

Pier Maua
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
12:24 P.M. (Local)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you all, very, very much. And, sir, I may need to borrow you hat before this is over.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to be here and impressed to see such a large crowd. Everyone I’ve spoken to so far in Rio keeps apologizing for the weather. This is wonderful as far as I’m concerned. (Laughter.)

It’s a truly -- I need not tell anyone here, this is truly a marvelous, marvelous city. And it’s not just the welcoming spirit of the Brazilian people or the mix of cultures and ethnicities, it’s the vibrancy, the inclusive democracy; seizing the opportunities that you all can taste and feel and smell that portend for a future that's even brighter than what exists today.

I’ve been traveling across the Americas, and I find something interesting. I’ve been doing this job a long, long time as you can tell; I’m a very old man. But I was elected when I was 29 years told to the United States Senate, and my portfolio has been American foreign policy. So I’ve traveled the hemisphere and the world over the last 40 years. And it’s astounding to see the transformation that not only Brazil has gone through, but that the hemisphere is going through.

Political conflicts are now most often resolved at the ballot box. Democratic elections are the norm, not the exception. There are now 275 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean who are part of the middle class. If you look at it in perspective of the last three, four decades, it’s truly astounding. Things are changing. The economies of the region are growing. Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, members of the G20. Brazil is about to become the director general of the WTO.

There’s a new sense of dynamism across the Americas. In the 1990s, we began in talking about Europe -- as I traveled Europe in my capacity as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee with a focus on Europe, we talked about after the Wall came down, the promise of a Europe for the first time since the nation state, a Europe that was whole, free and at peace. Well, today I think we can say with some degree of certainty that we can envision the Americas -- the Americas which are middle class, secure, democratic from the Arctic Circle to the Straits of Magellan.

In the U.S. the discussion is no longer what it was when I was first elected as a young man: What could we do for the Americas? That's long since gone. The issue now is: What can we do together? What can we do together?

And President Obama and I believe that the times present an incredible opportunity for a new era of relations between the United States and the Americas. We’ve never had so many capable partners. And American attitudes have changed as well. But none -- no partner is more significant in this endeavor than Brazil.

The size of these new opportunities, of the middle class, a secure and democratic region requires broader, deeper relationships with this great country and quite frankly all the countries in the hemisphere. And that's not going to happen without sustained interaction and consultation.

That's why I’m here in Brazil today. That's why the President has asked me to extend an invitation to your President who I’ll be meeting tomorrow to come to the United States in October for the only state visit that will occur in Washington this year.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's why the President has visited recently Mexico, Costa Rica. That's why he’s made six trips to Latin America and the Caribbean, and that's why I’ve traveled within the Americas on four separate occasions, why I met yesterday with the CARICOM nations; before that, with President Santos in Bogota. And the President has asked me to -- future trips in the fall and into the winter. It’s real simple: We want to engage more. We think there’s great opportunity. We’re optimistic.

Brazil has long since taken its place as one of the world’s great democratic economic powers. You’re the seventh largest economy in the world -- larger than India; larger than Russia. The story of your journey is truly remarkable in the last 20 years. In 20 years in the making, you built upon the most important resource that this great country has -- your human capital.

You broke the back of inflation. You lifted 40 million people out of poverty to the middle class, which is now 100 million strong. Your democratic and social innovations; your Zero Hunger Program; your bolsa familia; your homeownership programs -- they’re studied and copied around the world. They’re studied and copied around the world, from Guatemala to Ghana.

You’re tapping your enormous natural resources, but also getting a greater share of your energy from clean and renewable energy sources than any other country in the world. The rest of the world looks at you with envy, at the progress you’ve made. The hemisphere has much to learn from your experience.

But I believe the most important lesson is not any of the specific economic formulas that you’ve employed to raise the living standard of all your people or any social program that is being replicated. You taught something to the rest of the world, and this hemisphere in particular, that the United States has strongly believed from our inception. You demonstrated that there is no need for a nation to choose between democracy and development. You have demonstrated there is no need to choose between market-based economies and smart social policy. That is a debate raging in other parts of the world. But you, Brazil, have demonstrated that it is not the false choices that are being offered in other countries in this hemisphere and other countries around the world. And the world has begun to recognize your contribution.

The bad news for you all is the world has recognized your contribution. You can no longer claim, we are a developing nation. You have developed. And I can tell you from experience, the bad news with that is, what goes with that is worldwide responsibility to speak, to speak out.

But the world has also recognized -- we were talking with the President -- the World Cup in 2014, the Olympics in 2016, as they say in the southern part of my country, y’all are doing something right. (Laughter.) It’s pretty remarkable. The millions of visitors who come to Brazil, many through this very port, marvel at all these cranes and construction and all that’s going on, all the activity. You immediately get a sense when you debark and/or land in Brazil that your country has incredible dynamism. You can feel it. You can taste it.

But what I suspect many don’t understand is that that dynamism, although happening more here than anywhere else, is also happening outside of Brazil. It’s happening up and down this hemisphere. It’s happening from Colombia to Peru to Chile. It hasn’t reached the level that you have, but it’s happening. It’s happening.

And for those of you who may have read the accounts of the demise of America, the United States, as I said to then-President Hu in the Great Hall of the People in China when he was empathizing with telling me that he was sure we’d come back, I would point out -- it’s never been a good bet to bet against the United States of America. Never.

And what’s happening in my country, which is coming back from the deepest recession it’s had since the Great Depression -- we’ve added back $16 trillion in wealth, much of which had been lost to our population as a consequence of the crisis. We’ve had -- from the time we’ve taken office, the fifth month in -- every month, consecutive months of job growth. Not as strong some months as we wanted, but consecutive.

The foundations of our economy are stronger than ever. As you observe, you have great natural resources. We will be energy independent. We have not only tapped and found, but learned how to extract 100 years of shale gas, natural gas that can meet our needs totally if we chose to do that over time.

The best research and universities are still located in our hemisphere and in our country. And the most vibrant startups and venture capital markets still exist for all the problems we have had. We -- like Brazilians, we are optimistic about our future, and we are certain of our capacity, as you are.

The United States and Brazil represent two of the largest, most innovative, dynamic economies in the world today. It is true both of us can continue to prosper whether or not we deepen our economic relations. But imagine, just imagine what these two dynamic economies could do with greater trade and investment for our people, for the hemisphere, for the world.

Look, I know many in Brazil -- for many in Brazil, the United States doesn’t start with a clean slate. There’s some good reason for that skepticism. That skepticism still exists and it’s understandable. But the world has changed. We're moving past old alignments, leaving behind old suspicions and building new relationships. I don't ask you to judge us by my words or the words of the President; judge us by our deeds.

The United States and Brazil have made a good start in the Obama-Biden administration over the past four years. Our Presidents, our Secretaries of Defense -- as the military can tell you -- our Secretaries of State, our Special Trade Representatives -- and all 10 of our Cabinet members have visited this country since we took office. That is not by accident, it’s by design. And it’s unprecedented. And it’s a reflection of the value we place on Brazil and the effort to deepen relations.

During that time, we've signed energy and space cooperation and defense agreements. But I think the leaders of both our countries recognize there still is a gigantic gap between where we are and what we're capable of. We have an opportunity to set out an ambitious agenda on things that matter most to our people -- to mark in 2013 the start of a new era of U.S.-Brazilian relations.

I like to talk about what I consider the four issues that will help us get to where we have the potential to arrive. First is our economic relationship. It has already realized benefits for both our nations. American companies are competing for opportunities to do business in Brazil. Two-thirds of Brazil’s exports to the United States are high-end, value-added goods. We're making things together. We both know there’s a future in biofuels and aviation. Embraer and Boeing are jointly researching and testing the development of biofuels and the capability to use it as jet fuel. If they’re successful, the market is limitless.

Trade between the two of us now exceeds $100 billion a year. But I suspect any of you economists in the audience, and business leaders in the audience, know there’s no reason why that cannot be $400 billion to $500 billion a year. Imagine all the good-paying jobs that will be created in Brazil and the United States that flow from more open trade, especially at a time when both our countries have to work harder to create jobs and stimulate growth in a slow global economy. Ladies and gentlemen, to get there, though, we both have to do a lot more work to expand that trade.

We appreciate the leadership role Brazil is playing in the World Trade Organization. We believe this is the foundation upon which we can both build our countries’ values at the WTO. And as a G20 member, Brazil has a critical role in making sure everyone is doing their part and playing by the rules, promoting strong, balanced, and sustainable growth, and to resist the urge in difficult economic times for protectionism.

But in this increasingly interdependent world, it’s amazing how rapidly it continues to be globalized. Just when you think it’s about as far as it could go, it’s stunning, and to many, it’s frightening. But it’s stunning. We believe in this new world there’s additional complementary steps we can take beyond the G20 and the WTO to expand trading relationship worldwide that will benefit us all. And we’re attempting to do just that.

That’s why in the United States, the President is working to finish this year a vast new Trans-Pacific Partnership, an economic partnership. That’s why we’re pursuing an ambitious new economic agreement with the European Union, where we already have $1 trillion in two-way trade in goods and services, and $4 trillion in investment.

But we know -- we know there can be so much more. And we’re going for it, collectively. That’s why we’re negotiating global agreements to open services and expand the spread of information technology. In all of these, the ingredients are the same: greater market access, greater intellectual property protection, fewer regulatory barriers, higher standards, new disciplines to make sure that everyone plays by the same rules. But in both our countries we have vested interests who are not excited about this expansion.

And the door is wide open for Brazil to be not only part of this but a leader in this incredible expansion. I would argue there’s no period in modern history when there’s been as much activity to expand trade around the world.

But to state the obvious, it’s up to Brazil to decide whether to pursue this path or whether to seize the possibilities and accept the responsibilities that go with it.

What’s true for trade is also true for foreign direct investment. Collectively we have reduced the obstacles to investment, and the key is providing greater predictability and confidence for those countries willing to invest in each of our countries. But that requires transparent dispute resolution mechanisms, fair and equitable treatment of all investors.

We welcome -- I want to make this clear -- we welcome, we seek greater Brazilian investment in the United States. We welcome it. We need it. We want you invested. We’re seeking to expand investment across the board. I’ve had hours of discussions in his capacity as Vice President and mine as Vice President with now President Xi about how do we expand more foreign direct investment in both countries.

That's why we’re also pursuing new bilateral investment treaties with China, as well as India. Again, for those who are accustomed to the world before it changed, some of this is frightening. Some of this is threatening, but all of it’s necessary. It’s necessary.

Second, there’s much more we can do together on energy, as I look out on this port. We have different strengths -- Brazil and the United States -- and combined, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

You’ve been a world leader in biofuels and renewable energy, and we’re learning from you. We’re learning from you, and we’re adjusting to what we thought had to be greater protection. We have certain expertise ourselves. You possess it as well. But I would argue we have as much expertise in deepwater extraction and unconventional fuels and petrochemicals as any nation in the world. And we stand ready to be your partner.

We have found cooperation with other countries in these areas has benefited not only them, but it’s benefited us as well; and in no way threatened anyone’s sovereignty, but expanded opportunity in both countries.

Again, it’s for Brazil to decide whether it makes sense for you to put in place the rules that allow Brazil to take advantage of this expertise. Your decision.

Third, let me talk about the work we can do together in the region and around the world. Because as I said earlier, no longer can Brazil talk about being an emerging power: You have emerged and everybody has noticed. You’ve emerged and you’ve engaged on food security, nonproliferation, peacekeeping, conflict prevention, anti-corruption efforts. You’ve emerged and you’ve engaged and you’ve had a positive impact on the world.

Brazil is not just a donor nation, but a leader in global development -- from your country’s $900 million write-down of African debt, to our joint projects to fight hunger and poverty in Honduras, Ghana, Mozambique. But there’s so much more we can do together.

As I said for all your accomplishments the most significant among them in my view is that you’ve shown that countries do not have to engage in the false choice between development and democracy. Great democracies like yours and mine should be promoting democratic values around the world. And as the leader of the global south, there are situations where you have considerably more credibility and different opportunities to do that than we do or any other country whether it’s in your own neighborhood or far away. The transitions in North Africa, you can play a positive role.

That's why we look to you to recognize the difference between undue interference in other nations’ affairs and deepening democracy and human rights when they’re under attack.

On all these great issues between us -- from trade and investment to energy to human rights -- we’ll have our disagreements. All countries do no matter how close they are. But I want you to know, whether we disagree, we start from a position of respect.

The things that brings me to the fourth point -- ultimately, all the deepest and strongest international ties, relationships, rest upon a foundation of trust, on seeing each other for who we are: the good and the bad. Warts and all. And the most consequential way to establish that trust is not just a relationship between leaders increasing, but to deepen people-to-people ties. That’s how we each build constituencies in one another’s countries for this partnership. And that’s what sustains us when disagreements between our governments exist -- and they will.

And so we need to keep tapping our people’s shared passion for innovation and education and democracy. Both our societies have recognized that the future will go to the most innovative, best-educated populations in the world.

My wife, who’s with me, is a full-time educator as Second Lady. She teaches 15 credits a semester at one of our community colleges. She has an expression; she says, “Any country that out-educates us will out-compete us.” That’s why President Obama has proposed the 100,000 Strong Initiative to welcome 100,000 students from the Americas to the United States to study at U.S. universities and send an equal number throughout the region.

That’s why your President has launched Brazil’s “Science Without Borders” initiative. Five thousand of your talented young students today, Brazilian students, are studying science, technology, engineering, and math at U.S. universities in 46 of our states. And we look forward to receiving thousands more.

And, of course, the lifeblood of people-to-people ties is access to one another’s shores for tourists, businessmen, students, families. That’s why we’ve launched the “consular surge” to help Brazilians get tourist visas faster than ever before, cutting wait times for tourist visas, as we have done, from 14 weeks to two days. That’s why we’ve opened two new consulates in your country.

History has delivered as both to a moment where the possibilities are immense. And as every student of history knows, these moments have occurred before in human history, but they don’t last very long. We either take advantage of them or they pass us by.

I am absolutely confident together we can seize this moment and take some of the tough decisions on the economy, energy, global affairs. It will be worth it, because words alone don’t bring about a new era in our relationship; we have to work at it. And we have a lot of work to do.

So I’m here today to say, we’re ready. I believe the wind is at both our backs. The best days of this partnership are on the rise and they’re ahead of us. Both our countries are countries of possibilities. So let’s go find them together. Let’s go explore them.

May God bless you all. May God bless the Brazilian people and may God protect our troops. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 12:50 P.M. (Local)