US President Barack Obama heralded Brazil's extraordinary rise on the world stage but stopped short of backing its bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
At the start of a five-day trip to Latin America Saturday in Latin America, Obama told a joint briefing with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff that his visit was a historic opportunity to strengthen US ties with the region's largest economy.
Brazil's extraordinary rise, Madam President, has captured the attention of the world, he said. Put simply, the United states doesn't simply recognize Brazil's rise. We support it enthusiastically.
Obama said he wants to ensure a bigger US share in Latin America's robust economic growth. Boosting US exports helps create jobs back home and will aid his 2012 presidential re-election hope.
Rousseff struck a more confrontational tone, and cited the need for a relationship of equals as Brazil's clout in global affairs grows with its economy.
She barely looked at Obama during her remarks, and focused largely on issues that divide the two nations such as trade and the US decision to print money to aid its economic recovery, a move that has hurt Brazil as capital flows make its currency overvalued.
In the past, our relations were often characterized by empty rhetoric that papered over what was really at stake between us, she said, citing US agricultural subsidies and a tariff on Brazilian ethanol as barriers to be torn down.
I am equally concerned with the slow pace of the reforms in the multilateral institutions that still reflect an old world, she said.
Brazil believes its greater diplomatic and economic clout have earned it a permanent Security Council seat. Rousseff said this was not about a minor interest of bureaucratic occupation of spaces, but because she thinks it will produce better results in the search for peace.
In a joint statement, Obama and Rousseff said they recognized the need to reform international institutions to reflect the current political and economic realities.
But Washington did not explicitly back Brazil's aspirations for a permanent UN Security Council seat, as he did for India when visiting New Delhi in November.
President Obama expressed appreciation for Brazil's aspiration to become a permanent member of the Security Council, the statement said.
Late Saturday the First Family flew to Rio do Janeiro where they have a full program for Sunday including an important speech by Obama on US/Latam relations. Originally it was scheduled to take place in an open plaza, --Cinelandia—in the heart of Rio but for security reasons it was moved to the Municipal Theatre.