By Agence France-Presse
President Donald Trump on Tuesday said his administration is working on a free-trade agreement with Brazil, to cement closer ties between the two largest economies in the western hemisphere.
“We are going to work on a free-trade agreement with Brazil. Brazil is a big trading partner. Other than that, we love the relationship,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is scheduled to host US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Brasilia on Wednesday.
“I have a great relationship with Brazil. I have a fantastic relationship with your president,” Trump said of the Brazilian leader, adding: “They call him the Trump of Brazil. I like that.”
Far-right Bolsonaro is part of a populist wave that has swept the Americas and Europe in recent years, making him a kindred spirit with Trump.
With about $70 billion in two-way annual goods exchanges between the two nations, the United States typically enjoys a robust trade surplus with Brazil.
Major US exports include agriculture goods such as wheat and animal feeds as well as information and telecommunications services.
Imports include aircraft, fuels, coffee and meat as well as iron and steel.
In 2011, the two countries signed an agreement on trade and economic cooperation to ease commercial exchanges.
But Ross played down expectations for an agreement to be reached quickly.
Speaking to reporters in Sao Paulo, he also warned that a recent trade pact between the European Union and Mercosur countries — Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay — should not contain anything that would block a deal with the US.
Brazil’s deputy economy minister Marcos Troyjo told AFP a bilateral agreement with the US would be possible if it did not involve tariffs.
Otherwise, it would be necessary to involve its Mercosur partners in the negotiations.