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Can Obama and Rousseff mend fences?
June 30, 2015, 4:05 am

Rousseff's last visit to the White House in 2012 before relations soured over espionage revelations [Xinhua]

Rousseff’s last visit to the White House in 2012 before relations soured over espionage revelations [Xinhua]

Hoping to prove that Brazilian-US relations have moved past a two-year chill, President Dilma Rousseff continued her visit to Washington today and met with her counterpart Barack Obama.

The two walked at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in the National Mall in Washington Monday afternoon.

Rousseff later attended a state dinner at the White House and will meet Obama again for official talks on Tuesday.

The symbolism of the visit to a site honoring an American peacemaking icon was not lost on the two leaders who are hoping that their two days of talks will iron out tensions ignited by revelations that the National Security Agency had been spying on Rousseff’s private communications, as well as Brazilian industry giants.

The leftist Brazilian leader canceled a state visit to the United States in October 2013, after she was angered by revelations that the US National Security Agency had tapped her personal communications.

Brazil had requested explanations from Washington on information of US spying in Brazil that was first revealed when NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked vital intelligence data to the media.

The data showed that there was a persistent and continuing effort by the US government to use a widespread surveillance scheme that monitored millions of e-mails and phone calls made by Brazilian citizens and companies, as well as foreigners in the country.

Hatchet burying

But Rousseff will likely focus the crux of her trip on luring American companies and investors to Brazil in a bid to give the beleaguered economy a much-needed shot in the arm.

“We need to reduce the risks of doing business in Brazil,” she told the Wall Street Journal on Monday.

She said she would work to encourage international businesses to “take advantage of the business and investment opportunities that are emerging in Brazil, especially in infrastructure,” perhaps choosing her words more for a domestic audience that has grown disenchanted with a stalling economy and unpopular public policies.

A survey of 2840 people in 174 cities by national pollster Datafolha last week found that 65 per cent of Brazilians see the government’s work as “bad” or “very bad”.

There have been several demonstrations in Brazilian cities; some have called for Rousseff’s ouster, while others have shown support for the president.

But many in Brazil are disgruntled by new austerity measures – cutting public spending and raising taxes – that the government has implemented to boost economic growth.

Brazil’s national statistics agency IBGE says gross domestic product contracted 0.2 per cent in the first three months of the year from the previous quarter. This was a better show than the the 0.5 per cent contraction predicted by most economists, but a far cry from Brazil’s hey day just five years ago.

An ever-widening corruption scandal centered around the state-run oil company Petrobras and the allegations that senior management skimmed billions in profits has also dogged Rousseff.

Rousseff was Petrobras chairwoman from 2003 to 2010 before she was elected President.

She has admitted that corruption did occur during her years at the helm but insists she had no knowledge till she had already left the company.

Brazil faces tough times ahead, says Ernesto Lozardo, an advisor to the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES).

“The high-decibel March 15 protests – widely covered by international media – highlighted the four core issues that Brazilian society have identified as impediments to security and stability: Skyrocketing corruption in the public sector, lack of political reforms, high inflation and slowing growth,” Lozardo previously wrote.

Rousseff hopes to counter that by meeting with American industrialists and business leaders in Washington and San Francisco following similar talks in New York City.

Her entourage of Brazilian business experts are also expected to hold talks with the US Chamber of Commerce.

She told reporters in New York that Brazil is “building the foundations of a new cycle of enhanced growth, and inflationary control measures, as well as budgetary balance” as part of a comprehensive government strategy.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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