Obama arrives in Brazil to start Latin America tour

AFP , Saturday 19 Mar 2011

The United State's president is in Brazil as part of a 5-day tour in Latin America to bolster economic ties and open new markets

US President Barack Obama with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha during their airport arrival at Brasilia Air Base in Brasilia, Brazil, Saturday 19 March 2011. (AP)

US President Barack Obama arrived in Brazil Saturday, calling for bolstering economic ties between the United States and Latin America to open new markets and create more jobs.

Air Force One, carrying the president and his staff, touched down at the Brazilian capital at 7:33 am (1033 GMT).

Obama is accompanied on the trip by First Lady Michelle Obama, their daughters Sasha and Malia, the president’s mother-in-law Marian Robinson, and Eleanor Kaye Wilson, the girls' godmother.

"Latin America is a part of the world where the economy is growing very quickly," the president said in his weekly radio address broadcast just minutes before his arrival. "And as these markets grow, so does their demand for goods and services. The question is, where are those goods and services going to come from?"

The president said he wants to make sure these products are made in America.

"I want to open more markets around the world so that American companies can do more business and hire more of our people," Obama said.
During his five-day tour, Obama will visit Brazil, Chile and El Salvador.

In Brazil, he plans to highlight an amazing economic leap which has lifted millions from poverty and won a new global influence that President Dilma Rousseff seems keen to wield.

He will cite Chile's evolution from authoritarian misery to increasingly prosperous democracy as an example for Middle Eastern nations emerging from repression.

And in El Salvador, Obama hopes to show that Washington's engagement can squeeze political oxygen from regional foes like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Analysts and officials said Obama's journey would be the signature trip within the Western Hemisphere of his first term.

Washington also sees the visits as a chance to reassert US weight in a region attracting global interest, and investment dollars, from as far away as China.

"We've always had a special bond with our neighbors to the south," the president said in his address. "It's a bond born of shared history and values, and strengthened by the millions of Americans who proudly trace their roots to Latin America."

In an increasingly global economy, the US partnership with these nations is going to become more vital, he said.

"For it's a source of growth and prosperity -- and not just for the people of Latin America, but for the American people as well," he said.

On the first stop Saturday, Obama will likely celebrate Brazil's staging of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, as US construction firms hope for a slice of billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.

He will also seek a personal connection with Brazil's new president, Rousseff, who took office at the start of the year, following tense ties with her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The leaders will hold a press conference and Obama will meet business leaders in Brasilia before heading off to savor Rio de Janeiro's tourist spots on Sunday.

Obama noted that last year, US exports to Brazil supported more than 250,000 American jobs.

He cited the examples of companies like Capstone Turbine in California, which recently sold $2 million worth of high-tech energy equipment to Brazil, and aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky, whose helicopter sales to Brazil help sustain a large, skilled workforce in Connecticut, Alabama and Pennsylvania.

"Today, Brazil imports more goods from the United States than from any other nation," Obama said. "And I'll be meeting with business leaders from both countries to talk about how we can create even more jobs by deepening these economic ties."

In Chile Monday, Obama will seek to honor a rising nation's embrace of democracy after a difficult transition that aides said may carry lessons for turmoil-wracked nations like Egypt.

He will have talks with President Sebastian Pinera and deliver a speech to the region.

On his final stop in El Salvador, Obama will imply that even leftist leaders like President Mauricio Funes can cooperate with the United States, in a signal to US foes like Chavez.

He pointed to the "rapid growth of Latin America, and their openness to American business".

"We now export more than three times as much to Latin America as we do to China, and our exports to the region will soon support more than two million jobs here in the United States," he said.

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